Fatty liver disease: Two warning signs in your nails ‘which may not be recognised’

Liver Disease: Expert discusses risks and symptoms

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“Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a chronic condition caused by too much fat being stored inside the liver cells, which is not due to alcohol,” said Dr Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy. While the early stages don’t usually pose harm, this condition can progress to liver failure or cancer if left untreated.

“It is important to note that the majority of people with NAFLD have no symptoms and are unaware they have it,” said the doctor.

This is because the early stages of this condition tend to be silent without ringing any alarm bells.

However, when symptoms do occur, they can include lesser-known signs including finger clubbing and leukonychia.

Dr Lee put these symptoms under signs, “which may not be recognised”.

She explained that finger clubbing describes the enlargement of your fingertips.

This sign can also be spotted in your nails and leave them “downward curving”.

Another sign which affects the nails is leukonychia, according to the expert.

She detailed that this appears as whiteish nail discolouration.

However, these nail problems aren’t the only symptoms of NAFLD.

According to the NHS, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease develops in four main stages.

Dr Lee said: “It can progress to non-alcohol related steatohepatitis (NASH) – a more serious condition in which there is liver inflammation. 

“Fibrosis (scar tissue) may then occur, leading ultimately to cirrhosis and liver failure.”

If you find yourself suffering from NASH or fibrosis, your body can draw attention to the problem by:

  • 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.

Dr Lee added: “As liver function becomes more abnormal, it can cause jaundice, with yellowing of the whites of the eyes, yellowing of the skin, pale stools, and dark coloured urine.

“If you have any concerns, you could have NAFLD, you are strongly advised to see your GP.”

How to manage the condition?

As with many conditions, lifestyle changes can go a long way. The expert said: “Much can be achieved by improving lifestyle factors – eating healthily, taking regular exercise, and reducing alcohol to within recommended limits. 

“The Mediterranean diet is recommended. This a diet full of lean meat, fish, poultry, whole grains, unsaturated plant fats such as olive oil, sunflower oil, or rapeseed oil, and large quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables which are high in antioxidants. 

“You need to undertake 150-300 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise.

“This is any exercise that increases your heart rate and makes you feel sweaty and slightly out of breath, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or dancing.

“If your GP is concerned that things are not under control and could be progressing, they will refer you to a hepatologist.”

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