‘Tiny red lines’ on the skin could signal fatty liver disease

Liver Disease: Expert discusses risks and symptoms

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Also known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, fatty liver disease refers to a variety of conditions caused by a build-up of fat in the liver. Early stage fatty liver disease often doesn’t show symptoms and can be harmless. However, if it is allowed to develop it can be potentially fatal.

This is because if left untreated it can reach the most severe stage, known as cirrhosis.

Cirrhosis is permanent and occurs after years of inflammation.

The liver becomes scarred, lumpy and shrivelled.

Ultimately it can lead to liver failure and liver cancer – both of which can result in death.

NHS Inform explains: “Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver caused by continuous, long-term liver damage.

“Scar tissue replaces healthy tissue in the liver and prevents the liver from working properly.

“The damage caused by cirrhosis can’t be reversed and can eventually become so extensive that your liver stops functioning. This is called liver failure.

“Each year in the UK, around 4,000 people die from cirrhosis and 700 people with the condition need a liver transplant to survive.”

Initially cirrhosis might not trigger symptoms.

“There are usually few symptoms during the early stages of cirrhosis,” NHS Inform says.

“Noticeable problems tend to develop as the liver becomes more damaged.

“In early stage cirrhosis, the liver is able to function properly despite being damaged.

“As the condition progresses, symptoms tend to develop when functions of the liver are affected.”

One such symptom is having “tiny red lines,” which are blood capillaries, appearing on the skin above waist level.

Other symptoms of cirrhosis include:

  • Tiredness and weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss and muscle wasting
  • Feeling sick (nausea) and vomiting
  • Tenderness or pain around the liver area
  • Very itchy skin
  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • A tendency to bleed and bruise more easily, such as frequent nosebleeds or bleeding gums
  • Hair loss
  • Fever and shivering attacks
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet due to a build-up of fluid (oedema)
  • Swelling in your abdomen (tummy), due to a build-up of fluid known as ascites.

If cirrhosis progresses you might also notice blood in your vomit or poo.

This is due to the fact that blood is unable to flow through the liver properly, causing an increase in pressure on a vein carrying blood from the gut to the liver.

How to reduce your risk of fatty liver disease

There are a number of potential causes of fatty liver disease, including eating too much fatty food and being overweight.

To lower your risk the NHS advises:

  • Losing weight
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Swapping sugary drinks for water
  • Exercising regularly
  • Quitting smoking.

Although fatty liver disease is not caused by alcohol, cutting back on drinking is also recommended.

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