More awareness of liver disease needed

Particularly common in type 2 diabetes patients
  • Deborah Condon

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a ‘growing and silent epidemic' in Ireland, a leading consultant has warned.

According to Prof Suzanne Norris, a consultant hepatologist at St James's Hospital in Dublin, an increasing number of people with diabetes are being diagnosed with this disease and there is an urgent need to raise awareness of it among the diabetes community.

She noted that awareness of NAFLD is low among the public, but also among healthcare professionals. This is largely because there is a misconception that liver disease ‘is only associated with alcohol abuse'. As a result, there is a stigma attached to the disease.

"This could not be further from the truth and it is critically important that this misconception is highlighted for the benefit of all people with type 2 diabetes and/or obese individuals in Ireland.

"The fact is, NAFLD is a common condition that affects up to 25% of the adult population and is particularly common in type 2 diabetes patients. It has become the most common cause of chronic liver disease in developed countries," Prof Norris explained.

As the name suggests, NAFLD is different to liver disease caused by excessive alcohol intake. It is common in people with type 2 diabetes, high BMIs and/or those who consume a high intake of fat and sugar, commonly referred to as the ‘Western diet'.

"After assessing more than 400 patients with NAFLD, we discovered that one out of four patients had advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis. In addition, one out of three of these patients had type 2 diabetes. We need to raise awareness among the diabetes community," Prof Norris said.

To coincide with World Diabetes Day (November 14), Prof Norris will present on the topic of NAFLD at the Diabetes Ireland AGM and Education Meeting in Dublin city on November 12.

NAFLD screening will be carried out at this event using the innovative FibroScan
Technology - a 10-minute non-invasive, pain-free test. This screening will be provided free of charge on the day and during the week of World Diabetes Day at Liver Wellness Clinics in Dublin.

Diabetes Ireland members interested in availing of a free FibroScan
assessment can provide their details to Liver Wellness at the Diabetes Ireland AGM and education meeting or can email fibroscan@liverwellness.ie to apply for a free screen. A total of 50 free FibroScan assessments will be provided.

The Diabetes Ireland AGM and Education Meeting takes place on Sunday, November 12, at Chartered Accountants House, 47-49 Pearse Street, Dublin 2, from 2pm to 4.30pm. A number of experts will present on a range of topics, including the latest type 1 diabetes research, diabetes distress and app technology. Anyone with an interest in diabetes is welcome to attend and no booking is necessary.

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