I’m twenty-one years old, and I have liver disease.
My particular flavour of liver disease is Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis, which basically means despite not being a drinker, my liver slowly turned to fat, then got inflamed and then started hardening into scar tissue – all without me knowing.
The risk factors for this particular kind of liver disease include being male, older, and obese. I score a solid 0/3 on the risk factor test, but my liver doesn’t care. Now that I know I try to eat a low-fat diet, exercise moderately and have it scanned once a year to keep an eye on the rascal.
But the cold hard fact remains, liver disease is down with the kids: look out young-adults of the 21st Century – the liver’s no age-ist.
Here’s how it’s going down.
That cool year round tan… oh wait, I mean jaundice. At least it’s not orange! On the downside, your eyeballs are also tanned. And your liver isn’t working.
- Feeling no pain! That liver though – sneaky, sneaky organ deficiency, not causing symptoms, luring you into a false sense of security.
- Too hipster for you, the liver doesn’t get ‘hurt’ the liver suffers an ‘insult’ (that’s the official medical term, fyi). How sure are you that you haven’t offended it?
- Think your heart/brain are the big bosses here? Think again, your liver is the one doing the lion’s share of the body’s work – HEAR IT ROAR. Oh wait, whimpering in pain, getting fat… slowly shutting down. But doing it stoically, see point 2.
- Wait – you want to stick a giant needle where?! (Hard-)core needle biopsy, not a joke.
- Liver’s a popular guy. Got that gallbladder hanging round trying to absorb its awesomeness. By awesomeness I obviously mean dysfunction and disease. Oh well, nobody likes a stoner.
- Heard some pretty cool rumours about liver. Turns out he regenerates. Dr Who? Dr Liver. Oh wait, not when you have cirrhosis. What a quitter.
- Wow what? Am I having a heart attack? Nope, that’s your liver finally speaking up. He’s trying to take your diaphragm down with him, hence the chest pain.
- Now things aren’t looking so hot, vomit and rip-your-own-skin-off itching aren’t a good look – even with that slammin’ tan. That’s right, all that pent up liver rage has to come out some time – and boy, is that a lot of pent up liver rage.
The fun doesn’t necessarily go down in the above order – I had jaundice during a moment where my gallbladder gave up, but am no longer unnaturally ‘golden’. I’m hovering around the middle of the list and hopefully now that I know what’s going on I can keep it there. Of course, without risk factors, it’s hard to isolate why it’s happened and therefore harder to slow down. But I can and will try. And I wouldn’t have that chance if I hadn’t known it was there.
Crucially, if you do have risk factors for this or other types of liver disease (obesity, high-fat diet, alcohol, take lots of medication like painkillers to name a few) you can nip it before it even gets to bud.
See the rest of the BLT website for some liver lovin’ ideas to keep your liver as youthful as you.