Chief Executive, British Liver Trust
Late diagnosis of liver disease is causing a crisis across the UK, denying many patients the chance of getting the best possible treatment. Evidence shows the earlier a patient is diagnosed, the greater their chance of survival.
Three quarters of people are currently diagnosed with liver disease in an emergency setting and by this time it is often too late for effective treatment. Despite being highly preventable, liver disease is a silent killer and there are usually no symptoms in the early stages.
Lack of awareness of the seriousness and prevalence of the disease, together with the stigma that often surrounds it, means that it is consistently overlooked and underfunded.
Prevention of liver disease
Ninety per cent of liver disease is preventable and if liver damage is detected at an early stage, a patient can make lifestyle changes that can stop the progression or even reverse the damage. However, GPs lack effective tools to find those at risk and make an early diagnosis.
At the British Liver Trust, we know that there are areas of the UK which have excellent pathways in place – we need to see these pockets of good practice rolled out across the UK. We are also calling for liver disease to be part of the routine NHS (over 40’s) health checks.
Despite being highly preventable, liver disease is a silent killer and there are usually no symptoms in the early stages.
Prioritising liver health
Liver disease usually has no symptoms in the early stages so the best defence for any of us is to take steps to keep our livers healthy.
The liver is a remarkable organ, performing hundreds of vital functions including the removal of waste products and storing nutrients. Despite this, most people underestimate the importance of looking after it.
While the liver works hard and can take a lot of abuse, it is like an elastic band – it can only stretch so far before it breaks.
Three simple steps to improve your liver health:
- Drink within recommended limits and have three consecutive days off alcohol every week.
- Eat a healthy diet and take plenty of exercise.
- Know the risk factors for viral hepatitis and get tested or vaccinated if at-risk.
To address the late diagnosis of liver disease, the British Liver Trust has launched a new campaign called ‘Sound the Alarm on liver disease’ to demand faster diagnosis.