Current estimates show that around 10 million people in Germany have elevated liver values. This also increases the risk of developing liver disease in the course of life. These diseases are usually severe and therefore life-threatening. Early diagnosis is crucial to avoid cirrhosis and liver cell cancer. Only then are there chances of recovery. For this reason, the German Society for Gastroenterology, Digestive and Metabolic Diseases (DGVS) recommends to have your liver doctor regularly measure your liver values on the occasion of the German Liver Day on November 20.
Doctors sometimes also tend to bagatalize increased liver function tests. However, they should be examined and treated carefully. Mostly overweight patients show high values. Vulnerable people also include alcoholics and drug addicts. Patients who take medication permanently are also at risk, according to the DGVS. The event day "New opportunities for the liver" is organized by the Gastro-Liga, the German Liver Aid and the German Liver Foundation.
Liver diseases are often gradual, usually cause no symptoms and are therefore only recognized late. Untreated liver diseases can lead to liver cirrhosis, i.e. scarring of the liver, or liver cell cancer in the long term. As a result, the tissue dies, often only a transplant saves the patient.
"With a timely diagnosis, we can successfully treat or even cure many liver diseases," explains DGVS media spokesman Professor Dr. med. Christian Trautwein from Aachen. With hepatitis B, antiviral treatment can prevent the disease from progressing. The hepatitis C virus can even be completely eliminated with new drugs.
The most common liver disease in Germany is non-alcoholic fatty liver. It affects about 30 percent of the population. As a rule, the disease is due to health risk factors such as obesity, an unbalanced diet and a lack of exercise. Excessive alcohol consumption also leads to fatty liver. In women, 10 grams of alcohol a day are considered harmless to a healthy liver. This corresponds to a quarter liter of beer or an eighth liter of wine. In men, twice the amount is the limit. Metabolic diseases such as diabetes mellitus or fat metabolism disorders can also promote the development of fatty liver.
"Our goal must be to diagnose liver diseases before there are any long-term consequences such as cirrhosis or liver cell cancer," said Trautwein. A fatty liver, for example, can completely regress if the cause is eliminated. One of the most common genetic liver diseases, the so-called iron storage disease, doctors can treat with the help of medication and regular bloodletting. "With this disease, too much iron accumulates in the body and the liver can be seriously damaged," explains Trautwein. "The therapy aims to reduce the iron content in the body." Medications can also cause liver damage. In addition to paracetamol and certain rheumatism medicines, the drugs that often affect the liver include antibiotics.
The DGVS demands the inclusion of a liver test in the preventive program of the statutory health insurance companies. For example, although the “Check-up 35 plus” takes a blood sample, the collection of liver values has not yet been part of the program. "The early detection of hepatitis or fatty liver could reduce complications and their treatment costs," Trautwein is convinced. Cash registers currently only cover the cost of a liver function test if there is a suspicion.
It is possible to normalize the liver values again before serious illnesses can develop. In consultation with the family doctor, treatment methods from naturopathy can also be used. You can find out more on these pages: "Detoxify the liver".
The German Society for Gastroenterology, Digestive and Metabolic Diseases (DGVS) was founded in 1913 as a scientific society for researching the digestive organs. Today it unites more than 5,000 doctors and scientists from gastroenterology under one roof. The DGVS very successfully supports scientific projects and studies, organizes congresses and further training and actively supports young scientists. The DGVS is particularly concerned with the development of standards and treatment guidelines for the diagnosis and therapy of diseases of the digestive organs - for the benefit of the patient. (pm, sb)