A Perfect Storm for Liver Damage…
While the COVID-19 virus itself can cause “long hauler” symptoms, many physicians are seeing the emergence of diseases that are a result of the types of behaviors adopted during lockdowns and quarantines.
For many people, the pandemic “lifestyle” has led to increased alcohol consumption, higher calorie diets, and decreased physical activity. These types of behaviors can lead to Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD) and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).
“The liver is an extremely important organ in the human body,” says Natarajan Ravendhran, MD, MBA, AGAF, FACG. “The liver has an essential role in digesting food and ridding the body of toxic substances.”
Because of this vital role, it’s important to know if the liver is not functioning properly.
Signs and Symptoms…
In the early stages of liver disease, there may not be obvious signs or symptoms. Some patients may experience:
- Skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice)
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine color
- Pale stool color
- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
The Bad News….
If left untreated, both groups of fatty liver disease (AFLD and NAFLD) can lead to liver scarring (cirrhosis). Heavy scarring can lead to liver cancer or liver failure, a life-threatening condition.
“Early diagnosis may prevent permanent damage to the liver,” explains Dr. Ravendhran. “There are non-invasive techniques available that can measure the level of liver stiffness.”
If liver disease is suspected, a doctor may recommend an ultrasound or a Fibroscan to determine the amount of scarring in the liver.
The Good News….
Even if some scar tissue has already formed, the liver can possibly repair and even regenerate itself. With a well-managed treatment plan, damage from liver disease can often be reversed.
Many diseases and behaviors can damage the liver, but there are ways to protect and possibly heal this important organ. Talk to a healthcare professional about liver health today.
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