Liver Disease: Expert discusses risks and symptoms
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Livers are vital organs, serving more than 500 purposes in the body. Therefore, any problems with the liver can cause symptoms in unexpected areas. This is the case for fatty liver disease for which the warning signs could appear in multiple places.
Also known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, it refers to liver conditions caused by a build-up of fat in the organ.
In its earliest stages it often doesn’t present with symptoms.
However, as it progresses and becomes more serious it can become noticeable.
The fourth and final stage of fatty liver disease is known as cirrhosis.
This occurs after years of inflammation, leaving the liver lumpy, scarred and shrunken.
If not treated this can lead to liver failure, cancer and even death.
Therefore, spotting the symptoms as soon as possible could be life saving.
According to NHS Inform, cirrhosis can cause swelling in four parts of the body.
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These are the legs, ankles, feet and tummy.
It says: “Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet due to a build-up of fluid (oedema)
“Swelling in your abdomen (tummy), due to a build-up of fluid known as ascites (severe cases can make you look heavily pregnant).”
Other signs to look out for include:
- Tiredness and weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss and muscle wasting
- Feeling sick (nausea) and vomiting
- Tenderness or pain around the liver area
- Tiny red lines (blood capillaries) on the skin above waist level
- Very itchy skin
- Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- A tendency to bleed and bruise more easily, such as frequent nosebleeds or bleeding gums
- Hair loss
- Fever and shivering attacks.
“You may also notice changes in your personality, problems sleeping (insomnia), memory loss, confusion and difficulty concentrating,” the health body explains.
“This is known as encephalopathy and occurs when toxins affect your brain because your liver is unable to remove them from your body.”
Later stage cirrhosis can also cause issues with your stools.
NHS Inform says: “In the later stages of cirrhosis, you may vomit blood or have tarry, black stools.
“This is because blood can’t flow through the liver properly, which causes an increase in blood pressure in the vein that carries blood from the gut to the liver (portal vein).
“The increase in blood pressure forces blood through smaller, fragile vessels that line your stomach and gullet (varices).
“These can burst under high blood pressure, leading to internal bleeding, which is visible in vomit and/or stools.”
To lower your risk of fatty liver disease the health body advises you:
- Lose weight if you are overweight
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Stop smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Swap sweet drinks for water.
If you experience any of these symptoms or are concerned you have fatty liver disease you should see your GP.
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