Fatty liver disease is an umbrella term referring to excessive fat accumulation in the liver. The NHS believes a third of people in the UK have early stages of the disease – when it is still hard to detect. As fatty deposits accumulate in the liver, however, an onslaught of complications can be expected. One sign on the skin may indicate the disease has already begun wreaking havoc.
The Mayo Clinic explains that symptoms of fatty liver disease rarely surface in the initial stages of the condition.
The progression of fatty liver disease, however, poses risk for more serious conditions such as fibrosis of the liver, cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Cirrhosis occurs as the liver becomes inflamed and the organ begins to scar.
During these stages, the formation of spider veins – also known as spider angioma cirrhosis – is caused by the deposit of fat molecules in the liver, causing blood flow to become sluggish.
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The formation of blood clots may also cause blood pressure to grow, leading to the eventual formation of bulging varicose veins.
According to the Fatty Liver Disease website, the vast majority of spider veins are benign, however, if there are more than five groups of vessels surrounded by a red area, these are signs that “the situation may be more serious”.
These veins usually appear during the cirrhosis – or late – stage of fatty liver disease, which is when late-stage scarring of the liver occurs.
Spider veins are tiny, damaged, twisted and swollen capillaries on the surface of the skin, which are sometimes red or blue in colour.
Although they can occur anywhere on the body, in people with liver disease they often appear on the face, shoulders and back.
Doctor Michelle Lai, a herpetologist at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre, explained: “When you gain weight, the resulting stress on your body causes your metabolism to go haywire, and your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol start to rise.”
The condition is prevalent among overweight individuals, however, those who appear naturally slim may still carry abdominal fat.
Individuals who have a body mass index that falls into a normal range may still have a higher than average waist circumference.
Exercise is also a proven therapeutic strategy to improve fatty liver disease.
Several studies have shown that aerobic and strength training in particular may improve the condition.
According to the NHS, the disease is often diagnosed after blood tests pick up on elevated liver enzymes.
The health body states that further tests, including ultrasound scans, may thereafter be needed to confirm these findings.
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