January marks Love Your Liver Awareness month, where the key aim is to put a spotlight on the risk factors and the steps we can take to keep our livers healthy, as well as encourage early detection of liver disease.
Liver disease is an often overlooked yet significant public health concern. Despite a staggering 90% of liver damage cases stemming from preventable causes, such as excessive alcohol intake, obesity and viral hepatitis, deaths from the disease have nearly doubled in the last 20 years. Recent figures show that more than 10,000 people die from liver disease every year.
A key policy campaign of the British Liver Trust is to ‘make early diagnosis of liver disease routine’. Detecting liver disease earlier will need primary care nurses and professionals to know the risk factors and proactively look for it in their patients.
New figures from the charity’s Love Your Liver roadshow reveal that one in ten people who were scanned in 2023 had signs of possible liver damage. These are not specific people invited to be scanned but anyone who happens to be walking past the roadshow in their local area by chance to find out more about liver disease.
These figures are particularly concerning as liver disease develops silently with no signs or symptoms. This means people often don’t realise they have a problem until the damage is more severe and often irreversible. As it stands, three quarters of people are diagnosed with cirrhosis at a point when it is too late for effective treatment. And a further quarter of people who are diagnosed late in hospital die within 60 days.
That’s why the British Liver Trust’s Love Your Liver campaign is so important. The liver has the amazing ability to regenerate itself and if found early damage can be halted and sometimes reversed Primary care health professionals are in ideal position to assess risk factors in patients and spread awareness on how to care for the liver. Early assessments and detection could give patients the opportunity they need to repair their liver before it’s too late.
The Love Your Liver campaign focuses on three simple but effective steps to improve liver health:
● Drink less than 14 units of alcohol and have three consecutive days off alcohol 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. There are now highly effective cures for hepatitis.
People can find out if they are at risk of liver disease by visiting Love Your Liver Screener - British Liver Trust. The British Liver Trust also free liver screening and scanning to members of the public with their Love Your Liver roadshow.