Liver Disease: Expert discusses risks and symptoms
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Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an umbrella term for a range of conditions triggered by a build-up of fat in the liver. While the early stages of NAFLD don’t usually spur on symptoms, red flag signs often crop up as the condition progresses. Noticing problems associated with NAFLD could therefore mean it has become irreversible.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease develops in four main stages, with the last destination being known as cirrhosis.
Unfortunately, “there’s no cure” for this most advanced stage of liver damage, according to the NHS.
Cirrhosis crops up after years of inflammation and causes your liver to shrink and become scarred and lumpy.
“This damage is permanent and can lead to liver failure (where your liver stops working properly) and liver cancer,” the health service adds.
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While this stage of fatty liver disease paints a scary picture, cirrhosis is often the only stage that shows warning signs.
One of the red flag symptoms of this irreversible condition can be spotted in your pee – choluria.
Choluria, or dark urine, is characterised by a dark brownish colour, resembling cola.
The reason why your pee turns dark is bilirubin – a yellow substance produced during the normal process of red blood cell breakdown.
MedLine Plus states: “Your liver uses bilirubin to make bile, a fluid that helps you digest food. A healthy liver removes most of the bilirubin from your body.
“But if there is a problem with your liver, bilirubin can build up in your blood and get into your urine.”
According to Science Direct, dark urine often comes hand in hand with other warning signs, including light-coloured stools and jaundice.
In case you’re not aware, jaundice details the white of your eyes and skin turning yellow and is considered one of the symptoms of cirrhosis, according to the NHS.
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Apart from these three warning signs, cirrhosis also causes symptoms, including:
- Feeling very tired and weak
- Feeling sick (nausea)
- Losing your appetite
- Losing weight and muscle mass
- Getting red patches on your palms and small, spider-like blood vessels on your skin (spider angiomas) above waist level
- Vomiting blood
- Itchy skin
- Tarry-looking poo
- Bleeding or bruising easily
- Swollen legs (oedema) or tummy (ascites) from a build-up of fluid
- Loss of sex drive (libido).
The NHS stresses: “See a GP urgently or call 111 if you have any of these symptoms and have a liver condition.
“There’s no cure for cirrhosis at the moment. However, there are ways to manage the symptoms and any complications and slow its progression.”
How to manage non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
From a healthy diet to exercise, there are various lifestyle tweaks that can help manage the liver condition.
According to the NHS, you should aim for a healthy weight and follow a diet packed with fruits, vegetables, protein and carbohydrates, but low in fat, sugar and salt. Drinking water instead of sweet drinks could also help.
Other interventions such as exercise, quitting smoking and cutting down on alcohol could also be useful.
While NAFLD isn’t triggered by alcohol, drinking may make it worse so it’s advisable to cut down or stop drinking alcohol, the health service adds.
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