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Your Liver 2020

Alcohol is not the only cause of liver disease

Photo credit: Getty / Sam Edwards

“Before I was diagnosed with liver disease, I never realised that you could develop a liver problem that wasn’t related to alcohol or hepatitis.” Says Beth Ryan, a cirrhosis patient.

Pictured: Beth Ryan

“I rarely drink, maybe once or twice a month; but since having children, I put on weight which I now know to be a contributing factor. 

“Before I found out I had a liver problem, I was feeling generally unwell, lethargic and experiencing some pain in my abdominal region. My GP sent me for blood tests which revealed issues that, in hindsight, may have been related to my subsequent liver disease diagnosis. At the time, I was told that the symptoms that I was experiencing were down to problems with my gallbladder and an operation to have it removed was arranged for March 2017.”

Shock, confusion and worry

“It was during the operation to have my gallbladder removed that it was discovered that I had cirrhosis – scarring of the liver. As a result, the surgeons decided to stop the operation as significant loss of blood was too risky given my condition. I was told about my damaged liver as I was coming out of the anaesthetic, adding to the shock, confusion and worry. The surgeon didn’t expand on the diagnosis but did recommend that I visit a different hospital where they would be able to better manage the bleeding from my liver that may occur. 

“Following the failed operation, I went back to my GP who was very helpful and explained that while the diagnosis was very serious, I was lucky that it was found by accident before my condition advanced. Most of the knowledge gained about my diagnosis was from my own research, including information on the British Liver Trust’s website.”

Recovery after the operation

“It’s three years since the discovery. I have scans every six months to check for signs of any changes which could indicate a cancer or progression of the disease, and have regular appointments with a liver specialist. I had my gallbladder removed in March 2019 but the stay in hospital was longer than usual as I don’t recover quickly.

“I have had numerous blood tests to determine the cause of the cirrhosis, but nothing has been found so it has been put down to my excess weight. It has also been suggested that some of the medication I have taken in the past may have contributed to the damage.”

The importance of looking after yourself

“The only thing I can do to slow the damage is to lose weight. My day-to-day living hasn’t really been affected, apart from the continuous struggle to lose weight. On my bad days, I do think about how fast things may deteriorate, but I know I am very lucky that this was found before it could develop into liver cancer or liver failure. 

“Only those close to me know about my liver condition as there seems to be a stigma around liver troubles when discussed publicly; people automatically assume you have alcohol issues. I would urge people to look after themselves more. It’s not only heart disease or diabetes that result from carrying extra weight. I know that awareness is increasing, but there definitely needs to be more public education around the topic. I keep myself informed now and I urge others to do the same.”

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