Four red flag signs of silent killer disease one in three Brits at risk of having

The liver is one of our vital organs that performs hundreds of important functions for the body. These include converting food into energy and removing toxins from the blood.

Therefore, any damage to the liver can have a devastating impact. In the UK, fatty liver disease is the most common type of liver disease.

According to the NHS, one third of adults are thought to be in the early stages of the disease due to having small amounts of fat in their liver.

As the name suggests, this condition is caused by a build-up of fat in the liver. Although this might not initially cause any problem, over time it can lead to lasting damage of the liver.

And if untreated it can result in cirrhosis, liver failure, cancer and even death.

Worryingly though, the condition often does not present with symptoms until it has become more severe, earning it the reputation as a “silent killer”.

“There are not usually any symptoms of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in the early stages,” the NHS says.

“You probably will not know you have it unless it’s diagnosed during tests carried out for another reason.”

The disease typically develops in four stages:

  • Simple fatty liver (steatosis)
  • Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) – where the liver has become inflamed
  • Fibrosis – where persistent inflammation causes scar tissue around the liver and nearby blood vessels, but the liver is still able to function normally
  • Cirrhosis – the most severe stage, occurring after years of inflammation, where the liver shrinks and becomes scarred and lumpy.

Although it may not lead to any symptoms, “occasionally” people with NASH or fibrosis might experience four side effects.

These are:

  • A dull or aching pain in the top right of the tummy (over the lower right side of the ribs)
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness.

The NHS says you should see a GP “urgently” or call 111 if you have any of these symptoms and have a liver condition.

If the disease progresses to cirrhosis it can cause more obvious and “severe” symptoms.

These include:

  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Itchy skin
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles, feet or tummy (oedema).

If you experience any symptoms and your GP is concerned they might refer you for a blood test called a liver function test which can diagnose conditions such as hepatitis.

However, it does not always pick up on fatty liver disease.

The condition may also be spotted during an ultrasound scan of your tummy.

There are currently no specific medications for fatty liver disease, but making healthy lifestyle choices can help.

In extreme cases, such as if you develop severe cirrhosis and your liver stops working properly, you may need to be put on the waiting list for a liver transplant.

To manage or lower your risk of fatty liver disease, the NHS recommends you:


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.