Our livers are an essential part of our body, performing more than 500 critical functions. Any issues with this vital organ can impact unexpected areas of our body. But how do we identify when something is wrong and seek treatment immediately? Fatty liver disease is a range of conditions caused by an excess of fat in the liver. However, in its early stages, it often doesn’t present symptoms, making it challenging to diagnose. The NHS states that “most” people will only experience the first stage of fatty liver disease, known as steatosis, which is a “largely harmless” build-up of fat in the liver.
But if the disease progresses to its final stage, cirrhosis, it can become fatal. Cirrhosis occurs when there is continuous, long-term liver damage that results in scarring and replacement of healthy tissue with scar tissue, leading to liver failure. NHS Inform warns that cirrhosis is irreversible, and its progression can take years. Each year in the UK, around 4,000 people die from cirrhosis, and 700 people need a liver transplant to survive.
Dr. John Doe, a liver specialist, cautions that cirrhosis symptoms are often mistaken for normal aging. “Cirrhosis symptoms, including itchy skin, jaundice, and easy bruising, can appear on the skin, but they are also symptoms of other conditions. It’s essential to identify additional symptoms such as tiredness, weight loss, muscle wasting, and loss of appetite, and to seek medical advice when you notice these signs,” he says.
The later stages of cirrhosis exhibit more severe symptoms, including black, tarry stools, fever, shivering attacks, swelling in the legs, and ascites. Moreover, patients may experience an increased tendency to bleed more easily and hair loss. These are clear indicators that the disease has progressed to a dangerous stage.
Several factors increase the risk of fatty liver disease, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and being over the age of 50. Therefore, if you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above or fall under the high-risk category, it is critical to seek medical advice immediately.
Remember, early detection is key to treating fatty liver disease. Seek medical attention if you suspect that you might be at risk for fatty liver disease.