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

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By Diana Buntajova

“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 signs don’t usually pose harm, this condition can progress to liver damage 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 recognized”.

Fatty Liver Cirrhosis: Eating too many refined carbohydrates could be a trigger

She explained that finger clubbing describes the enlargement of your fingertips. One can spot this sign in your nails and leave them “downward curving”.

Further, another sign which affects the nails is leukonychia, according to the expert. She detailed that this appears as whiteish nail discoloration.

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

Furthermore, 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-colored urine.

“See your GP, if you have any concerns about having NAFLD”

Fatty Liver – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

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 healthy, doing regular exercise, and reducing alcohol to within recommended limits.

“The Mediterranean diet is recommended. This is 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 an 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.”

Tarek Hassanein, MD, FACP, FACG, AGAF, FAASLD

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