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Living life well - is your liver up to it?

General Health

Perhaps this isn’t the best time of year to be thinking about cutting down your drinking, or maybe it is


Helen Marsden

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GPs get a slap on the wrist today for not being proactive enough in looking out for early liver disease in their apparently healthy patients. ‘Look out for those at risk, do more blood tests and consider more scans’ we are being told.

The liver seems to cope quite well with the insults we throw at it but it is a fine line, and a fine line that seems to vary from person to person. What one person’s liver can tolerate in terms of damage due to alcohol, infection and disease, can cause fatal liver damage in somebody else.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that we only have one liver, and while we can manage on only a small part of it, any damage we do due to lifestyle causes damage in the whole liver. It then gets to a critical point of no return and the only thing that saves us is a liver transplant, and they’re not easy to come by.

It is difficult to know how our liver is doing, as it doesn’t show on the outside until the damage is too far-gone. The common signs of liver damage such as yellow jaundice, itchiness and small burst blood vessels don’t show until the liver is failing and then it is often too late.

So how do we prevent liver damage?

  • Well we all know that we should moderate our alcohol intake, drink less overall, have alcohol free days and not binge drink.
  • If there is liver disease in your family then it is important to have tests for hereditary conditions such as haemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease and alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency.
  • The hepatitis viruses can cause liver damage so precautions and vaccinations are important if you could be in contact with these either in your work or during travel abroad.
  • Prevention is far better than cure when it comes to looking after your one and only liver.

What about tests?

  • Liver function tests are an important part of any liver investigations. See the Medichecks Liver Check for a good start to assess liver damage. However, some tests can still be normal in the earlier phases of liver disease, so if you are concerned then you should dig deeper.
  • Gamma GT is a liver enzyme which is particularly raised in liver damage due to alcohol.
  • Haemachromatosis can be excluded using a test for high levels of iron in the blood.
  • There is a simple blood test which can check for the Alpha1 Antitrypsin hormone and for Wilson’s disease.

Medichecks offer a comprehensive range of specialist liver tests. See what is available in our Liver Health section and if you can’t find a test you are looking for then please speak to one of our health advisors on 08456 029 029.

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