Living with a liver disease diagnosis

It is more common to receive a liver disease diagnosis than you may realise with 1 in 10 people developing liver problems in their lifetime. 

What are the different types of Liver Disease? 

As there are more than 100 types, we have listed some of the more common/specific types. It can sometimes be referred to as hepatic disease. 

Psoriasis of the liver

Psoriasis is a skin condition but can cause greater risk of developing Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Psoriasis is sometimes confused with the term cirrhosis which refers to scarring and damage to the liver. 

Decompensated liver disease 

This is also called decompensated cirrhosis and used by medical professionals to describe the complications of advanced liver disease. Patients with this type are nearing end stage liver disease/ failure and may be eligible for a liver transplant. 

Alcohol related liver disease (ARLD)

As the name suggests this is caused by drinking too much alcohol and accounts for 60% of all cases of liver disease. It can also be known as alcoholic liver disease. Anyone who is a ‘heavy drinker’ is at risk. 

The latest recommendations from the NHS about alcohol consumption are that men and women should drink no more than 14 units a week and this should be spread across at least 3 days or more and adding in alcohol free days. 

14 units of alcohol is equal to:

  • 6 pints of average strength beer
  • 10 small glasses (125ml) of low strength wine

 If you want to check your alcohol intake then Alcohol Change UK offers a unit calculator as well as advice and guidance on cutting down and how to stop  drinking alcohol.

Hepatitis

Autoimmune hepatitis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the liver which causes inflammation. This condition is chronic and non-contagious. 

Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. There are 5 different types of viral hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.

Alcoholic hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by excessive alcohol consumption over a sustained period of time which can cause sufferers to develop cirrhosis. 

Haemochromatosis 

This is an inherited genetic disorder which causes a build up of iron levels in the body. If this is late in being diagnosed then it can lead to liver problems and potentially cirrhosis of the liver. 

Cirrhosis 

Cirrhosis refers to scarring and damage to the liver caused by long term liver damage. It is also known as hepatic cirrhosis and  end stage liver disease.

What is chronic liver disease? 

If you have been experiencing symptoms of liver disease for over 6 months then this meets the criteria for being defined as chronic. Cirrhosis is an example of a chronic liver disease. 

This can lead to end stage liver disease which is also called acute liver failure, advanced liver disease and decompensated Cirrhosis.  

What are the Causes of liver disease? 

  • Obesity
  • An undiagnosed Hepatitis Infection
  • Alcohol misuse

What are liver disease symptoms?

In the early stages many types do not have any symptoms. Symptoms begin to show when the liver is already scarred and damaged (Cirrhosis) Below is an infographic which shares the main symptoms of cirrhosis. 

Liver failure in elderly people

Ageing causes the liver size to reduce as well as hepatic (liver) blood flow. Liver failure tends to present very slowly and gradually in the elderly which can make diagnosis more difficult and may mean that the disease is more advanced once the symptoms become noticeable.

Treatment for liver disease 

The treatment you are offered will depend on the severity of your liver problems and how advanced the liver disease has become. 

Lifestyle changes 

  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Take regular exercise

Dietary changes

  • Reduce salt intake
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet
  • Eat 3-4 small meals instead of 1-2 large meals

Medicine

  • Prescription creams to prevent itching
  • Medicine to help with portal hypertension ( specific type of high blood pressure)
  • Diuretics to reduce swelling and fluid in the body. 

Liver Transplant

If your liver is damaged to the point that it cannot repair itself you may be offered a liver transplant. A liver transplant is a major operation and offered to those whose condition is life limiting or to improve the patient’s quality of life if all over treatment options have been exhausted. 

Your eligibility for a transplant is decided by the medical professionals assigned to your case. Priority is given to the most urgent cases. 

The NHS website offers further information on liver transplants and the transplant process 

Caring for someone with liver disease 

Caring for someone can be worrying, tiring and upsetting, it is important to recognise the support that you yourself will need as well as the support for the person you are caring for.

First of all you need to understand that you are an unpaid carer.

You can find out more about ‘What do I need to know about being a carer?’ in our article which details further advice and support available to you.
As an unpaid carer, you have certain rights, for example:

  • to be involved in planning the patient’s discharge from hospital into your care
  • you are entitled to an assessment of your needs as a carer from the local council
  • If you have to give up work to look after someone, you may be entitled to a carer’s allowance or other financial support.

If you are looking after someone with liver disease it is likely that they will suffer from hepatic encephalopathy to some degree. If you notice that they are becoming irritable or unkind then this is a sign. Make sure you speak to the doctor about this so that they can offer further advice and support.

Further support and advice for those living with liver disease

  • Join FamilyCarersNet on the pod our very own social media app for the millions of unpaid carers to chat with each other, share experiences and access support.
  • The British Liver Trust offers specific advice and support for those with liver conditions and their families.

Conditions & Illnesses

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