The British Liver Trust is calling for urgent action as figures in their new report, ‘The Alarming Rise of Liver Disease in the UK’, reveal that patients diagnosed with liver disease as an emergency presentation will be dead within a year.

Liver disease is the third leading causes of premature death in England and is the biggest cause of death for people aged between 35 and 49. 

“It is completely unacceptable that more isn’t being done to address the liver disease epidemic we are facing in the UK,” said Pamela Healy, chief executive, British Liver Trust. “This ‘silent killer’ is leading to the premature deaths of thousands of men and women every year.”

Liver problems develop with no obvious initial symptoms but if caught early, the disease can be reversed through lifestyle changes. More than three-quarters of people with cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver only find out when admitted to Accident and Emergency.

“To address this issue, we need the government to support us in improving early diagnosis and tackling prevention,” said Healy. “Helping people understand how to reduce their risk of liver damage is vital to change outcomes. Although the liver is remarkably resilient, if left too late damage is often irreversible and lead to liver failure.”

The increase in deaths from liver disease is in stark contrast to other serious conditions, such as heart disease and many other cancers where the numbers of deaths have remained stable or decreased over recent years. “A lack of awareness together with the stigma that surrounds it means that liver disease is consistently overlooked and underfunded,” said Professor Steve Ryder, medical advisor to the Trust and consultant physician at Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust.