PEOPLE who are only diagnosed with liver disease after being admitted to hospital as an emergency will be dead within a year, a shock report reveals.
Campaigners are calling for urgent action to address the findings of their report – The Alarming Rise of Liver Disease in the UK.
Liver disease is expected to overtake heart disease as the biggest cause of premature death and is already the biggest cause of death for people aged 35 to 49.
But more than three-quarters of people with cirrhosis, or scarring, of the liver only find out when admitted to Accident and Emergency, says the research by the British Liver Trust.
Trust chief executive Pamela Healy said: “It is completely unacceptable that more isn’t being done to address the liver disease epidemic we are facing in the UK. This ‘silent killer’ is leading to the premature deaths of thousands of men and women every year.”
Liver problems develop with no obvious symptoms in the early stages yet, if caught early, the disease can be reversed through lifestyle changes. Nine in 10 cases of liver disease are due to three main risk factors: obesity, alcohol and viral hepatitis.
“To address this issue, we need the government to support us in improving early diagnosis and tackling prevention,” said Ms Healy.
“Helping people understand how to reduce their risk of liver damage is vital to change outcomes. Although the liver is remarkably resilient, if left too late damage is often irreversible and leads to liver failure.”
Professor Steve Ryder, advisor to the Trust and consultant physician at Nottingham University Hospital said, “The increase in deaths from liver disease is in stark contrast to other major killer diseases like heart disease and many other cancers where the numbers of deaths have remained stable or decreased. A lack of awareness means liver disease is consistently overlooked and underfunded.”
The British Liver Trust’s Love Your Liver campaign, which aims to reach the one in five people in the UK who may have early stages of liver disease but are unaware of it, focuses on three simple steps:
- Drink within recommended limits and have three consecutive alcohol-free days every week.
- Eat a balanced healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight and take more exercise
- Know the risk factors for viral hepatitis and get tested if at risk. There are now very effective cures for hepatitis C.
Find out if you are at risk of liver disease in a few minutes by taking the British Liver Trust’s online quiz at www.britishlivertrust.org.uk/screener