Doctors warn of fatty liver disease among Filipinos: ‘Silent epidemic’

Nicholas Yong·Senior EditorFri, 17 June 2022, 2:41 pm

A big young man suffering from fatty liver disease feels the side of his stomach. (Photo; Getty Images)
A big young man suffering from fatty liver disease feels the side of his stomach. (Photo; Getty Images)

Medical experts are sounding the alarm bell over the increased risk of fatty liver disease among Filipinos who gained weight and developed unhealthy habits due to quarantine restrictions in the early days of the pandemic, according to Inquirer.

Philippine College of Physicians president Dr. Diana Alcantara Payawal warned on Thursday (Jun 16) that about 10 to 20 per cent of Filipinos have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), part of the “silent epidemic” afflicting millions globally,

While this is within the range of the global rate of 15 to 30 per cent, “some of them may already have fatty liver disease but are unaware of it,” said Payawal in a webinar organized by the Hepatology Society of the Philippines.

“This is a growing concern,” she added.

There are two types of NAFLD, a condition caused by fat buildup in the liver: the nonalcoholic fatty liver, and the “more advanced” nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, both of which can take years to develop.

The latter means the liver is already damaged. NASH can lead to serious problems, such as fibrosis, or persistent inflammation that causes scar tissue around the liver and nearby blood vessels, and cirrhosis.

In cirrhosis, the liver shrinks and becomes scarred and lumpy. This can lead to liver failure and liver cancer.

Health projects sidelined

Payawal noted that before the onset of the coronavirus, most of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) strategies were aimed at noncommunicable diseases. However, these were sidelined by the limitations imposed by the pandemic.

This “definitely” affected clinical diagnosis and detection, said Payawal, pointing to the current crop of patients with uncontrolled metabolic disorders, such as liver diseases and cancer as well as diabetes and colon diseases.

Some 18 million Filipinos are considered obese and overweight, leaving them highly susceptible to NAFLD. However, those with preexisting illnesses such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension, are also at risk as fatty liver is a “multisystemic disease.”Story continues

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