Like many of you, I enjoyed my regular after-work Friday trips to the pub with my mates and the weekend benders. After all, we all like a good drink and one or two drinks a night doesn’t hurt, right?
At least, this is what I believed until a friend of mine ended up in the hospital with liver failure. Turns out drinking just two cans of beer or two glasses of wine a day can cause irreversible damage to the liver and what’s worse, we may never know we have liver damage until it’s too late.
How serious is the problem?
According to the 2018 FARE (Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education) report, 82 percent of Australians surveyed drink regularly while at least five million people drink to get drunk. The report also says alcohol leads to 5,500 deaths while causing 157,000 hospitalizations each year, not to mention the burden of about $36 billion annually on the society.
The good news is that most of us are concerned about alcohol abuse. The bad news is that very few Aussies – like me- are aware of the link between liver problems and alcohol abuse.
What does the liver do?
As the largest organ in the upper right abdomen, the liver’s main task is to get rid of toxins and store nutrients. From helping the body to make and store energy to breaking down fats, this fantastic organ has multiple roles to play.
After we eat or drink, the nutrients, as well as unwanted toxins such as chemicals, drugs or alcohol, are absorbed into the blood in the intestine and taken to the liver. Once blood reaches the liver, anything that can potentially harm our body including drugs, alcohol, chemicals such as pesticides, pollutants, preservatives or food coloring are removed.
The buck stops here
Excess alcohol can slowly but surely damage liver cells to the point where the cells can no longer grow. Instead of healthy liver tissue, fat begins to accumulate. When more than 5 percent of the liver is replaced by fat, the condition is called Fatty Liver Disease (FLD).
Continuous damage from toxins such as alcohol cause scars to form in the liver even as the cells try to repair themselves in a process called fibrosis. With more such scars being formed over time, the liver loses its ability to improve itself and function normally. Extensive scars in the liver lead to chronic conditions such as liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.
Like me, most people do not realize in time that they have fatty liver or fibrosis because there are are no symptoms at this stage. Signs such as fatigue, appetite loss, nausea, confusion, swelling of legs and abdomen, yellowing of skin only appear in the later stages of fibrosis. If you wait until these symptoms to appear to get blood tests or ultrasound done, the damage to your liver could be beyond repair.
Preventing liver damage with FIBROSCAN® 502 TOUCH
The only way to stay safe is to get a liver scan with the FIBROSCAN® 502 TOUCH test every six months so that minor damage can be diagnosed before it becomes extensive.
Just like an ultrasound, the liver scan is a painless procedure that can be completed between five to 30 minutes. Also called transient elastography, the state-of-the-art technique uses “shear waves” to accurately measure fatty liver changes and the extent of scarring. Unlike a liver biopsy which involves taking a small sample of liver cells in one location, the FIBROSCAN® 502 TOUCH studies the entire liver.
The FIBROSCAN® 502 TOUCH test helped me understand that I can stop liver damage in its tracks by cutting out alcohol, exercising and eating healthy.
I now raise a glass to health. Schedule your scan now to protect your liver.