THE LARGEST survey of liver disease patients in the UK has revealed that half of the respondents did not exhibit symptoms prior to their diagnosis, and that 25% of them were diagnosed at a late stage of disease, reducing the options for treatment. Respondents who did report symptoms said that the most common symptoms were tiredness, abdominal pain, and pruritis.
The survey was carried out by the British Liver Trust, eliciting responses from over 2,000 liver disease patients across the UK. Results showed a number of important findings, including one in five respondents stating that they were given medication and sent away without further testing on their first visit to the general practitioner regarding concerns. One third of patients were diagnosed with liver disease when being tested for an entirely different condition, and 22% waited more than 6 months before being referred to a specialist.
Early diagnosis of liver disease greatly increases the chance of survival, and the results of this survey have prompted experts to call for greater steps to be taken to curb the emerging liver disease crisis in the UK.
Prof Stephen Ryder, Consultant at Nottingham University NHS Trust, Nottingham, UK, said, “We need to be diagnosing people with liver disease at a much earlier stage in primary care,” adding “Repeat testing of liver enzymes just wastes NHS money and does not provide early diagnosis. We now have excellent tests for liver scarring, the process which matters in the liver, and those tests should now be universal in primary care.”
A further positive step that can be taken to build upon the knowledge gained from the survey is to educate the general public on how to maintain good liver health. The British Liver Trust has highlighted their national awareness campaign Love Your Liver, which delivers helpful advice about liver health, including advice about alcohol consumption, diet, exercise, and risk factors to be aware of.