Liver disease: NHS Doctor talks about link with alcohol
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In the initial stages, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is characterised by non-specific symptoms like fatigue, tiredness and jaundice. As the function of the liver becomes increasingly impaired, however, urine and stool may take on a different colour. At this stage, emergency care may be necessary.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the term for a range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat inside the liver and generally occurs in people who are overweight or obese.
It is harmless in the initial stages, but can quickly pave the way for serious liver damage if left untreated.
The condition can be broken down into four main stages, explains the NHS.
In the first stage, small fat droplets accumulate under liver cells, while the advanced stages are characterised by acute inflammation.
A report published in the National Library of Medicine states that the need for more effective treatment is greater in alcoholic liver disease as the severe form of the disease is life-threatening.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, on the other hand, tends not to be life-threatening by itself but can cause lifelong complications nonetheless.
Approximately 20 percent of patients with fatty liver disease progress to the second stage of the condition, characterised by inflammation.
This can do progressive damage to your liver, eventually resulting in scarring of the tissues – known as cirrhosis.
Having high levels of fat in your liver is also associated with a higher risk of problems like diabetes, heart attacks and strokes, so action should be taken as soon as symptoms like melena emerge.
Melena is typically a reflection of bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract.
When bleeding originates from this area of the body it can cause stool to turn black and tarry, and smell foul.
In liver disease, the bleeding tends to be caused by a weakening of blood vessels known as varices.
The NHS explains: “If the blood pressure rises to a certain level, it can become too high for the varicose to cope with, causing the walls of the varicose to split and bleed.
“This can cause long-term bleeding which can lead to anaemia.”
Health body MyDr.com adds that stools are given their colour by the bile salts that the liver normally releases.
“If the stools are pale, it may indicate a problem with the liver or other part of the biliary drainage system.”
The most certain way to avoid fatty liver disease is to adopt habits known to improve overall health.
- Staying at a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Taking medication as prescribed.
Because the liver has a surprising ability to repair itself, liver fat and inflammation can be reversed by following the steps above too.
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