Liver disease: NHS Doctor talks about link with alcohol
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Alcoholic fatty liver disease is due to heavy alcohol use. Your liver breaks down most of the alcohol you drink, so it can be removed from your body. But the process of breaking it down can generate harmful substances. These substances can damage liver cells, promote inflammation, and weaken your body’s natural defences. The more alcohol that you drink, the more you damage your liver. Alcoholic fatty liver disease is the earliest stage of alcohol-related liver disease. The next stages are alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. What are the six symptoms warning your condition is getting worse?
Early-stage non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) does not usually cause any harm, but it can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis, if it gets worse.
Having high levels of fat in your liver is also associated with an increased risk of serious health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease.
Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) can be a serious condition which develops and involves having inflammation and liver cell damage, as well as fat in your liver.
Fatty liver disease means that you have fat inside your liver that can, over time, affect liver function and cause liver injury, said John Hopkins Medicine.
The health site continued: “People who drink too much alcohol may also have fat in their liver, but that condition is different from fatty liver disease.
“If you’ve been diagnosed with any fatty liver disease, let your health care provider know if you have any symptoms that mean the disease is getting worse.
“These include fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, weakness, fluid retention, or bleeding.”
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Who’s at risk
According to Medline Plus, those most at risk of fatty liver disease include:
- Those with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes
- Are obese
- Are middle aged or older (although children can also get it)
- Have high levels of fats in the blood, such as cholesterol and triglycerides
- Have high blood pressure
- Take certain drugs, such as corticosteroids and some cancer drugs
- Have certain metabolic disorders, including metabolic syndrome
- Have rapid weight loss
- Have certain infections, such as hepatitis C
- Have been exposed to some toxins
Liver enlargement is often a sign of liver disease, however there are often no symptoms linked to a slightly enlarged liver.
Symptoms of a very enlarged liver include belly discomfort or feeling full, and this occurs because when liver disease gets worse and cirrhosis develops, the liver shrinks because of scarring.
Liver failure is severe breakdown of a person’s liver function.
Liver failure happens when a large part of the liver is damaged from any type of liver disorder.
Doctors recommend weight loss for non-alcoholic fatty liver.
Weight loss can reduce fat in the liver, inflammation, and fibrosis. If your doctor thinks that a certain medicine is the cause of your NAFLD, you should stop taking that medicine.
But check with your doctor before stopping the medicine. You may need to get off the medicine gradually, and you might need to switch to another medicine instead.
The most important part of treating alcohol-related fatty liver disease is to stop drinking alcohol. If you need help doing that, you may want to see a therapist or participate in an alcohol recovery programme.
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