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Physician Tips: The Silent Epidemic of Fatty Liver Disease

A growing number of Americans are dying from liver disease and the age at which people are developing it is declining with the greatest increase in people dying of alcoholic cirrhosis and liver cancer since 2009 is among young people aged 25-34.

That’s the findings of a new study published in the July 2018 British Medical Journal. Their analysis showed that overall annual deaths from cirrhosis increased by 65 percent to 34,174 during the 2009-16 study period and the number of deaths from liver cancer doubled to 11,073. In those years people aged 25-34 years experienced the highest average annual increase in cirrhosis related death due entirely to alcohol-related liver disease.

Liver disease remains below the radar amid obesity epidemic

Despite such numbers, liver disease remains largely unnoticed by media, and to some extent by healthcare officials. Public health officials have been raising the alarm about the growing epidemic in obesity and the associated increase in type 2 diabetes for years.

Often liver disease not considered serious

While a lack of symptoms may be part of the reason liver disease often goes unnoticed, myths and misinformation about the seriousness of the disease may also be to blame. For many, fatty liver disease is not considered a serious medical condition.  

“Fatty liver was incorrectly thought to be benign,” Elizabeth K. Speliotes, M.D., Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, said in the university’s Michigan Health online magazine, “but more recent data suggest that it is a metabolic abnormality that can lead to damage of the liver as well as correlate with other non-liver diseases such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.”

Typical blood tests don’t detect early liver disease

Other misconceptions about liver disease include the perception that regular liver function tests detect liver disease. While a high aspartate amino transferase/alanine amino transferase (ASAT/ALAT) ratio indicates increased mortality in cirrhosis, detecting early stage disease is often missed in a standard biochemistry panel.

Newer algorithm-based combination tests, however, are gaining recognition for detecting early disease. In 2015, the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) revised their clinical practice guidelines to include either well-established combined biomarker or device-delivered liver stiffness measurements instead of liver biopsy to assess liver severity.

As with other health diagnostic algorithms, computerized liver diagnoses like LiverFASt™ can provide rapid, non-invasive, inexpensive, and (most importantly) early alerts well before a patient’s condition demands the expense and added risk of liver biopsy​.

Fibronostics is committed to leveraging the benefits of technology to improve lives, and deliver high-quality, life-improving disease education, evaluation and monitoring. For more information contact us via email, or by phone at 1-888-552-1603. 

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