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7 in 10 people with liver disease in the UK don’t even know they have it

Due to late diagnosis, nearly 75% percent of people with cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver don't know it, according to research published in the Lancet.  For many, the first indication is following admission to Accident and Emergency when the disease is advanced and chance of survival is very low.  This week, 18th to 24th June, is Love Your Liver week, and the British Liver Trust has launched a new version of an online screening tool so that people can find out if they are at risk.

Liver disease is one of the leading causes of premature death in England and is responsible for more than 1 in 10 deaths of people in their 40s.

Professor Nick Sheron, a liver expert from the University of Southampton involved in the research, said: "Liver disease develops silently with no signs or symptoms and is the second leading cause of years or working life lost. If current trends continue it become the leading cause of premature mortality in the UK. Yet, most people with fatal advanced liver disease only become aware that they have a liver problem when they are admitted as an emergency. We MUST diagnose these people much earlier."

Liver problems develop silently with no obvious symptoms in the early stages yet the disease is largely preventable through lifestyle changes.  The Love Your Liver awareness campaign, promoted by the British Liver Trust, aims to reach the one in five people in the UK who may have the early stages of liver disease, but are unaware of it.

More than 90% of liver disease is due to three main risk factors: obesity, alcohol and viral hepatitis.

Judi Rhys, Chief Executive, British Liver Trust said, “Helping people understand how to reduce their risk of liver damage is vital to address the increase in deaths from liver disease.  Although the liver is remarkably resilient, if left too late damage is often irreversible.  I would urge everyone to take our online screener on our website to see if they are at risk.”

The British Liver Trust’s Love Your Liver campaign focuses on three simple steps to Love Your Liver back to health:

  • Drink within recommended limits and have three consecutive alcohol-free days every week
  • Cut down on sugar, carbohydrates and fat and take more exercise
  • Know the risk factors for viral hepatitis and get tested or vaccinated if at risk

Finding out your risk of liver disease only takes a few minutes. It could be the most important thing you do today.  Take the British Liver Trust’s screener here

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