October is Liver Awareness Month, so in effort to help promote a deeper understanding, we’d love to share with you some information about liver disease, and how to promote liver health.
- There are more than 100 different types of liver disease.
- According to the American Liver Foundation, at least 30 million Americans– or 1 in every 10– have some form of liver disease.
- Liver cancer is on the rise in the U.S., with approximately 21,000 Americans being diagnosed with primary liver cancer each year.
- Liver disease can be caused by infections, viruses like Hepatitis A, B, and C, immune system problems, cancer, alcohol abuse, drug overdoses, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and cirrhosis, a buildup of scar tissue in the liver that can impede its proper function.
- NAFLD is the leading cause of chronic liver disease in both children and adults in the United States.
Six million children in the U.S.– up to 10% of the nation’s children– have NAFLD.
- According to the American Cancer Society, liver cancer is one of the most fatal types of cancer, and incidence rates have more than tripled since 1980, with death rates now being more than double what they were at that time.
Hepatitis C, also referred to as “the silent epidemic,” is one common cause of liver disease, and sometimes can exist for years without causing symptoms.
- Some liver conditions can be treated with lifestyle changes like reducing alcohol consumption or losing weight. Other liver problems may require other treatments such as medications or even surgery.
- Potential signs of liver disease include jaundice (skin and eyes that appear yellow), abdominal pain and swelling, swollen legs and/or ankles, itchy skin, pale stool color, dark urine color, chronic fatigue, loss of appetite, tendency to bruise easily, and nausea or vomiting.
Ways to Prevent Liver Disease
Just like with most illnesses, there are things you can do and lifestyle choices you can make to help prevent liver disease. The month of October presents the perfect time for you to check in with your liver health, make some changes if necessary, and potentially see a specialist if you think you may be having issues or are at risk. There are lots of ways you can work to prevent liver disease.
- Drink alcohol only in moderation.
That amounts to up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.
- Get vaccinated.
Talk to your doctor about hepatitis A and B vaccines to protect yourself from illnesses that can lead to liver disease.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
Obesity can cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, so avoid that risk by eating well and staying active.
- Take medications responsibly.
Take prescribed and over-the-counter medications only when necessary and only in the recommended doses. Don’t mix medications and alcohol, and talk to your doctor before adding herbal supplements to your line up to be sure they’re appropriate and safe for you.
- Make wise choices.
Practice safe sex. Be very cautious if you choose to get tattoos or body piercings, ensuring proper cleanliness and safety measures are followed. Do not share needles.
- Keep your foods safe.
Wash your hands properly before eating or preparing food. If traveling to a developing country, be sure to use bottled water for drinking, teeth brushing, and hand washing.
If you need to see a specialist about your liver health, we hope you’ll see one of our incredible doctors at Galen. Our endocrinology team is fantastic, and here to help you navigate any issues expertly and with compassion.