In a new study, researchers found that people living with type 2 diabetes are at particular risk of liver disease.
They found that many diabetes patients had liver cirrhosis yet didn’t know it. These patients should be monitored closely to prevent life-threatening liver conditions.
The research was conducted by a team led by the Queen Mary University of London and the University of Glasgow.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) affects about 25% of people in the West. It is the most common cause of liver disease around the world.
Previous research has shown that the condition is closely linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes and that poor diets and sedentary lifestyles could contribute to it.
For most people, NAFLD is a benign condition, but one in six people will develop the aggressive form of the disease, called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
NASH could lead to liver injury, scarring and eventually in some to cirrhosis, liver failure, and even liver cancer.
It is very important to identify early which patients might go on to develop more aggressive disease.
In the study, the team examined healthcare records of 18 million European adults from the UK, Netherlands, Italy, and Spain.
They matched each NAFLD patient to 100 patients who did not have a recorded diagnosis and looked to see who developed liver cirrhosis and liver cancer over time.
They found that more than 136,000 patients were identified with NAFLD/NASH and were more likely to have type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity than matched controls.
The number of patients with recorded diagnoses of non-alcoholic fatty liver was much less than expected.
This means that many patients are actually undiagnosed in primary care.
Some patients developed more advanced, life-threatening stages of liver disease, suggesting that they were diagnosed very late.
The team suggests that diabetes could be a good predictor of liver disease progression.
Diabetes patients, doctors, and policymakers need to be aware of this silent disease. It is important to develop new methods to prevent liver disease in diabetes patients.
The leader of the study is Dr. William Alazawi from the Queen Mary University of London.
The study is published in the journal BMC Medicine.
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