Liver disease: Doctor discusses causes and symptoms
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According to the British Liver Trust, “liver disease is expected to overtake heart disease as the biggest cause of premature death in the next few years”. It has been estimated that in the UK one in three people have early-stage non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Of these, 20 percent are likely to worsen and develop cirrhosis. This is the last stage of long-term liver damage.
With cirrhosis, scar tissue starts replacing the healthy cells of the liver.
The illness reduces the body’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrients, and fight infections.
According to Pinnacle Clinical Research, fatty liver disease could damage the organ “for years or even decades” without producing any symptoms.
Jaundice could be a sign the disease has progressed onto cirrhosis, whose scarring “cannot be cured”.
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Jaundice is a condition that makes the skin and the whites of the eyes turn yellow, while also darkening urine.
It happens when bilirubin, a yellow substance coming from hemoglobin synthesis, is not eliminated quickly enough.
When this happens, bilirubin accumulates in the blood.
The cardiovascular system will then deposit it in the skin, the eyes, and other tissues, turning body parts yellow.
A review by Johan Fevery at University Hospital Gasthuisberg suggests that cirrhosis can be accompanied by a progressive increase in bilirubin levels.
The study argues that jaundice is a “relatively late” event in chronic liver disease and it indicates severe organ dysfunction.
Cirrhosis, in effect, is the late stage of fatty liver disease where the organ has substantial scarring.
When the condition progresses, scar tissue accumulates, making it hard for the liver to function normally.
As the Mayo Clinic explains, “the liver damage done by cirrhosis generally can’t be undone”.
“But if liver cirrhosis is diagnosed early and the cause is treated, further damage can be limited and, rarely, reversed.”
Being overweight increases the risk of developing liver issues that could lead to cirrhosis.
People who are overweight, for example, often develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Should yellowing of the skin and eyes become persistent it is worth consulting with a doctor to check for liver damage.
However, jaundice may also be caused by autoimmune diseases and rare genetic metabolic defects.
Some medicines too could cause the condition.
These include penicillins, oral contraceptives, and steroids.
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