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‘There’s no cure’: Oedema in your feet can signal irreversible fatty liver disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the term for a range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat in the liver. Early-stage NAFLD does not usually cause any harm, but it can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis, if it gets worse. Unfortunately, “there’s no cure for cirrhosis”, warns the NHS. Spotting the associated warning signs could therefore spell your condition has become irreversible.

If cirrhosis (the most advanced stage) develops, you can get more severe symptoms.

According to the NHS, one telltale sign is oedema, also known as swelling, in the feet.

You may also notice swelling in legs, ankles and tummy, the health body warns.

Other signs of cirrhosis include:

  • 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.

READ MORE: Swollen tummy could be a sign of fatty liver disease – caused by fluid build-up

“See a GP urgently or call 111 if you have any of these symptoms and have a liver condition,” urges the NHS.

It’s also important to watch out for the earlier signs of NAFLD as this can arrest its development.

According to the Mayo Clinic, NAFLD does not usually present symptoms initially.

However, if you do experience symptoms, these may include fatigue and pain in the right abdomen, the health body notes.

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How is NAFLD diagnosed?

Because NAFLD causes no symptoms in most cases, it frequently comes to medical attention when tests done for other reasons point to a liver problem.

“This can happen if your liver looks unusual on ultrasound or if you have an abnormal liver enzyme test,” explains the health body.

Tests done to pinpoint the diagnosis and determine disease severity include:

  • Blood tests
  • Imaging procedures
  • Liver tissue examination.

How to stop NAFLD getting worse

Lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk of getting NAFLD. Or, if you already have NAFLD, they can stop it getting worse.

READ MORE: Man, 79, sees liver function decline rapidly after presenting with ‘distended abdomen’

Losing any excess weight is top of the pile.

“This can reverse some of the build-up of fat and even some of the fibrosis in your liver,” explains Bupa.

It’s important not to lose weight too quickly though, because this could cause problems with your liver, warns the health body.

It advises aiming for 0.5 to 1.0kg (1 to 2lb) per week to achieve results.

Exercising more will also help you to lose any excess weight you may have.

This may help to reduce damage to your liver even if you don’t manage to lose any weight, notes Bupa.

Official UK health guidelines suggest aiming to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as walking or cycling, a week.

All types of exercise can help improve NAFLD, even if you do not lose weight.

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