Cases of cirrhosis of liver on the rise

September 12, 2012 4:51:13 PM PDT
It's called a silent epidemic -- silent because there are few symptoms, epidemic because thousands of overweight people are at risk. We have the story of how people who don't drink are getting cirrhosis of the liver in record numbers and what you can do to avoid it.

Kathy Bourquardez had no idea that cirrhosis had begun in her liver.

"I basically broke down. I was very devastated because I went to the doctor every year, and I never knew I had anything going on," Bourquardez said.

Bourquardez doesn't drink. She developed cirrhosis from what's called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It's caused by being overweight and there are few symptoms.

This silent fatty liver disease is leading to cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver transplants and doctors say because of the obesity problem, it may soon be an epidemic.

"It's such a bad problem in the next five years it will overtake hepatitis C as being the No. 1 reason for transplantations of patients in America," Methodist liver specialist Dr. Howard Monsour said.

"I thought it meant I was gonna die," Bourquardez said.

But the good news is fatty liver disease can be reversed by losing weight.

"It's actually very little weight needed to be lost, so you look at your weight is, and calculate to lose 12-15 percent of your weight and that'll take fat out of your liver," Dr. Monsour said.

Bourquardez is losing weight and exercising, and her most of the fat is gone from her liver. But the cirrhosis can't be reversed.

"Now we're seeing people in their 20s and 30s with cirrhosis because they've been obese from childhood," Dr. Monsour said.

Bourquardez continues with diet and exercise-the only prescription she has to save her liver and her life. Now she tells others to let her life be a warning.

"You can get rid of that before it turns into cirrhosis," she said.

Genetics play a role too. Hispanics are more susceptible to fatty liver disease than people of other ethnic groups who weigh the same. If you are overweight, ask your doctor to check for liver problems before you have symptoms.


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