Liver Disease: Expert discusses risks and symptoms
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Poor lifestyle choices create the perfect conditions for fat build-up in your liver. When it accumulates to the point of excess, it’s known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). While the early stages are treatable, reaching the last stage characterised by scarred and lumpy liver could mean you’re on a path to liver failure or cancer.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease develops in four main stages, with the last one being cirrhosis.
Classed as the “most severe stage”, cirrhosis shows no mercy to your liver, leaving it shrunk, “scarred and lumpy”, the NHS warns.
But this “serious” damage isn’t the worst that can happen to your liver as cirrhosis can lead to liver failure and cancer.
This doesn’t happen without your body ringing alarm bells, with cirrhosis presenting with spider angioma.
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A spider angiomas describes small red to purple patches on your skin caused by dilated blood vessels near the surface of your skin, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
As the name suggests, these skin marks resemble the body and legs of a spider.
The health portal adds: “Spider angiomas leave a red to purple mark on your skin.
“These marks can appear anywhere on your skin and are only cosmetic.”
While spider angiomas could indicate your liver has become scarred and lumpy, cirrhosis can also present with other signs.
According to the NHS, the full list of tell-tale signs includes:
- Feeling very tired and weak
- Feeling sick
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of weight and muscle mass
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- Vomiting blood
- Itchy skin
- Dark pee and tarry-looking poo
- Bleeding or bruising easily
- Swollen legs (oedema) or tummy (ascites) from a build-up of fluid
- Loss of sex drive.
The health service urges seeing a GP if you think you might have cirrhosis.
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While cirrhosis causes such serious damage that it can’t be cured at the moment, it takes years for this condition to develop.
This last stage of fatty liver disease is preceded by simple fatty liver (steatosis), non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and fibrosis.
The tricky part about fatty liver disease is that the first stages don’t usually trigger symptoms.
Fortunately, the condition often gets picked up during tests carried out for other reasons.
How to reduce risk of fatty liver disease
From a healthy diet to exercise, there are plenty of lifestyle habits that could strengthen your arsenal of protection against the condition.
The Mayo Clinic recommends sticking to a plant-based diet packed with colourful fruit and veg while also eating plenty of whole grains and healthy fats.
Maintaining a healthy weight and exercise are other important factors as well.
The health portal recommends exercising for most days of the week as long as your doctor allows it.
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