Fatty liver disease: The ‘lesser-known’ sign to spot in your fingers – ‘See your GP’

Liver disease: Doctor discusses causes and symptoms

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“Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a chronic condition caused by too much fat being stored inside the liver cells,” said Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy. Triggered by too much fat in the organ, NAFLD is associated with conditions, including diabetes and obesity.

When it comes to spotting the culprit, the early stages of fatty liver disease don’t usually present many warning signs.

However, as the condition progresses, your body might ring alarm bells.

Dr Lee shared that one “lesser-known” sign might be finger clubbing.

She explained that this symptom points to chronic liver disease and “may not be recognised”.

She detailed: “Finger clubbing [describes] enlargement of the fingertips and downward curving nails.”

Mount Sinai Health System adds the tell-tale signs that can reveal this sign:

  • The nail beds softening. The nails may seem to “float” instead of being firmly attached
  • The nails forming a sharper angle with the cuticle
  • The last part of the finger appearing large or bulging. It may also be warm and red
  • The nail curving downward so it looks like the round part of an upside-down spoon.
  • The health portal explains that clubbing can develop quickly, even within weeks.

Fortunately, this problem can be also solved “quickly” when the cause gets picked up and treated.

When it comes to fatty liver disease, finger clubbing points to cirrhosis, also known as the “most severe” stage of NAFLD.

During this stage, your liver shrinks and becomes scarred and lumpy, the NHS explains.

The health body warns that this damage is permanent and can even trigger liver failure or cancer.

Apart from finger clubbing, cirrhosis causes other “severe” signs, including:

  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Itchy skin
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles, feet or tummy (oedema).

Dr Lee advises to “see a GP” if you suffer from any symptoms. The NHS also recommends calling 111 as jaundice is considered “serious”.

Luckily, cirrhosis only occurs after years of liver inflammation and is preceded by three other stages of NAFLD.

Plus, the NHS notes that making lifestyle changes can help prevent NAFLD from getting worse.

Dr Lee said: “Much can be achieved by improving lifestyle factors – eating healthily, taking regular exercise, and reducing alcohol to within recommended limits.

“The Mediterranean diet is recommended. This is a diet full of lean meat, fish, poultry, whole grains, unsaturated plant fats such as olive oil, sunflower oil, or rapeseed oil, and large quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables which are high in antioxidants.

“[Also] make sure you eat plenty of fibre.”

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