'Liver disease is a silent killer. Most people with the condition don’t know they have it until the disease is at an advanced stage, yet it’s the biggest cause of death in those aged between 35-49 years old.'
This is what Professor Stephen Ryder, Medical Advisor to the British Liver Trust, had to say on the dangers of liver disease. In addition to this, since 1970, deaths due to liver disease have increased by 400%. This is in stark contrast to other major killer diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, in which the number of deaths have either remained stable or decreased. This may be because studies have shown that it can take up to 20 years for liver disease to progress to a stage where symptoms begin to show, meaning that around 70% of people with liver disease are undiagnosed and unaware that they already have some degree of liver damage.
It is also upsetting to consider that 90% of all liver disease in the UK is attributable to alcohol, obesity and viral hepatitis and is therefore preventable. A lack of awareness of the seriousness and prevalence of liver disease together with the stigma that often surrounds it means that it is consistently overlooked.
Of the vast number of factors that contribute to Liver impairment, Alcohol is the most significant, with 7700 people dying from Alcohol induced Liver Disease yearly. Second to this, obesity, also poses a signigicant detriment to Liver function, causing a build up of fat in the liver, impacting its functionality. Lastly, viral infections such as Hepatitis B and C can negatively impact our liver function, with 180,000 people are estimated to be chronically infected with hepatitis B21 and 215,000 people are thought to have hepatitis.
The liver is one of the most repairable organs of the body, but prolonged damage to the liver can lead to scarring which unfortunately cannot be repaired. Tehrefore, early detection in liver disease vastly increases the patients chances of a full recovery. Largely asymptomatic in early stage, later stage liver dysfunction can present with abdominal pain, swelling of the abdomen, loss of apetite, loss of weight, fatigue and jaundice.
Despite this, Blood tests are routinely not offered to patients who just exhibit risk factors, but as we now know, symptomatic liver disease most likely equates to a case we have caught far too late. Here at the Wellness Pharmacy, we offer patient's the ability to take control of their own health. Patient's can book in with the pharmacy for a blood test to quantify a variety of Liver markers. A liver check test will give us levels of your ALT and AST, two liver enzymes commonly used for initial liver screening. Any abnormalities can then be investigated in more depth with a full liver screen. Our Well Person blood test will also give a broad outlook on liver function and its various biomarkers.
More can be read about these blood tests below.