Home / News / Fatty liver disease: Hair loss could signal ‘advanced’ silent killer

Fatty liver disease: Hair loss could signal ‘advanced’ silent killer

Apr 16, 2023Apr 16, 2023

A symptom that strikes on your scalp could signal advanced liver disease - which can cause serious health complications and even be life-threatening

More than 40 Brits die every day from fatty liver disease, making it the third leading cause of premature death in the UK.

The condition is often associated with drinking too much alcohol (ARLD), but many cases are linked to a build-up of fat, also known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

According to the NHS, NAFLD can increase the risk of serious health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease.

It is often labelled a ‘silent killer’ because the disease doesn't produce symptoms during the early and middle stages, but as it develops it can be life-threatening.

The most common red flags of fatty liver disease include unexplained weight loss and extreme tiredness, but there are a number of lesser-known warning signs to watch out for too.

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Cirrhosis is often described as the most severe stage of liver disease, and occurs when healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue, which prevents the liver from working properly.

It often strikes after years of inflammation, where the liver shrinks and becomes scarred and lumpy, and can lead to liver failure and liver cancer. Warning signs that indicate that the liver is struggling to function include hair loss and thinning hair.

When there is an improper functioning of the liver it can affect the metabolic systems including digestion and the uptake of fat-soluble vitamins.

This will in turn affect a person's hair line because proper digestion and the uptake of vitamins is crucial for hair growth and cycling.

The liver is responsible for the uptake of fat-soluble vitamins, the detoxification of oestrogen and the regulation of blood sugar, all of which are important for normal follicle hair cycling.

The British Liver Trust highlights that 90 percent of liver disease cases are preventable as most cases are directly linked to alcohol, obesity and viral hepatitis. Therefore, by making healthy lifestyle changes, this will benefit your liver and in turn could impact your hair.

As the liver becomes more severly damaged, more serious symptoms can develop, these include:

Personality changes, confusion, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, or hallucinations

In women, abnormal periods

In men, enlarged breasts, a swollen scrotum (the loose sac of skin that contains the testicles) or shrunken testicles

Cirrhosis is the result of long-term, continuous damage to the liver and may be due to many different causes, said the British Liver Trust. The health site continued: "The damage leads to scarring, known as fibrosis. Irregular bumps (nodules) replace the smooth liver tissue and the liver becomes harder.

"Together, the scarring and the nodules are called cirrhosis. If you have or are worried about any of these symptoms discuss them with your doctor."

Dr Rhianna McClymont, lead GP at Livi, added: "If you’ve been diagnosed with a type of fatty liver disease, a GP can help you manage the condition and reduce the chance of it progressing.

"Most people with NAFLD will not develop serious liver problems or damage – so will not need medication or a referral. The most important way to manage the condition is by making healthier and more informed lifestyle choices."

Adopting healthy lifestyle changes can include:

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