Early liver disease detection paramount for diabetics

Tuesday, 17 October, 2023

Early liver disease detection paramount for diabetics

A study by QIMR Berghofer has highlighted the need for doctors to be more vigilant with early detection and monitoring of liver complications in patients with diabetes and obesity.

The rise in Australians with diabetes and obesity is coinciding with an increasing number of people diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), many aged in their 20s and 30s, according to QIMR.

The study used data from more than 8000 Queensland residents aged 20 years or older who were admitted to Queensland hospitals with NAFLD or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) between 2009 and 2018.

According to QMR, about five million Australians have NAFLD, and although most do not develop complications, it is very common in people with diabetes, and is usually asymptomatic and often not diagnosed.

The project involved collaboration with the Sunshine Coast University Hospital and Health Service and was supported by a grant awarded to Professor James O’Beirne from the Study, Education, Research Trust Fund (SERTF).

QIMR Berghofer’s Cancer and Chronic Disease Group Leader Professor Patricia Valery said the rate at which NAFLD progression occurred in people with diabetes and cirrhosis was alarming, with 37% developing liver-related complications within a decade.

In patients diagnosed only with diabetes, nearly 10% developed liver-related complications within 10 years.

Valery said data on the issue, particularly in Australian patients, was lacking.

“We want this data to alert all clinicians to the fact this is a growing problem and while they are managing patients with diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome, they also need to be vigilant in screening for NAFLD as well.”

Lifestyle changes and the management of metabolic comorbidities are the only treatments for NAFLD at present.

The study has been published in The Medical Journal of Australia.

Image credit: iStock.com/:mi-viri

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