Many people misunderstand liver health, study finds

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Liver health is often overlooked in public awareness, and a recent study highlights this concerning gap in knowledge.

Researchers in Sweden conducted a survey with 500 participants, representing a cross-section of the Swedish population in terms of age, gender, income, and education.

The findings reveal significant misconceptions and lack of awareness about the liver and its diseases.

Shockingly, nearly one-third of the respondents believed the liver produces urine, which is incorrect. Additionally, one in five people thought it was possible to live without a liver, another misconception.

A quarter of participants mistakenly thought the liver is housed in the rib cage, while 6 percent were unsure of its location, not placing it in the abdomen or rib cage.

The study also shed light on how rarely liver health is discussed. Most participants seldom or never talked about liver health with their doctor. About 20 percent avoided discussing it with friends, fearing it might imply they have an alcohol problem.

Stigma around liver disease is prevalent, with 60 percent of participants viewing liver disease as shameful. Only mental illness and obesity were considered more stigmatizing than liver cirrhosis, which one-third of the respondents incorrectly believed is always caused by alcohol.

Interestingly, the study found that younger people had less knowledge about the liver but were also less likely to view liver problems as stigmatizing. Education level seemed to have little impact on liver knowledge.

Dr. Staffan Wahlin, a liver specialist conducting research at Karolinska Institutet, stresses the problems arising from this lack of knowledge. Many people are unaware of the lifestyle risks that affect liver health and when to seek medical care.

Additionally, there’s a societal issue where people with liver diseases hesitate to discuss their condition due to the stigma, often linked to alcohol abuse.

Dr. Wahlin calls for increased knowledge across three fronts: among patients, the general public, and in healthcare. He points out the frequent misdiagnosis of liver diseases in healthcare, citing hemochromatosis as an example.

This hereditary disease leads to excessive iron absorption stored in the liver, causing damage. It’s treatable if diagnosed early, but often, it’s far advanced by the time patients receive the correct diagnosis.

Dr. Wahlin emphasizes the importance of taking elevated liver function test results seriously and obtaining a correct diagnosis.

If you care about liver health, please read studies about simple habit that could give you a healthy liver, and common diabetes drug that may reverse liver inflammation.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about simple blood test that could detect your risk of fatty liver disease, and results showing this green diet may strongly lower non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The research findings can be found in Clinics and Research in Hepatology and Gastroenterology.

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