In Conversation With Dr Kieron Lim on Liver Disease

My name is Kieron Lim. I am a Gastroenterology and Hepatology specialist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

What are some common symptoms of liver disease?

Liver disease can present (itself) in a wide variety of ways. Some patients with significant liver disease are actually asymptomatic and they feel totally fine. The only way we will discover that is by routine blood testing or routine scans. However, some patients actually develop significant symptoms and these include jaundice where the skin and the eyes are coloured yellow. Their abdomen can become bloated and distended, filled up with fluid as much as 10, 12, even 15 litres.

Some patients with advanced liver disease have confusion or what we call hepatic encephalopathy because the liver is unable to clear toxins in the body and the bloodstream. This results in a buildup of ammonia which then goes to the brain, and this may manifest as a poor concentration, reversal of their sleeping pattern all the way to confusion and a deep coma.

Another commonly encountered complication includes bleeding from the blood vessels in the food pipe and the stomach known as varices.

Can you share some liver care tips?

Patients or individuals with no family history of liver disease such as hepatitis B, liver cirrhosis or liver cancer or feel well in themselves should still go for regular health checks or health screenings. These checks include assessments of their liver, cholesterol levels, and glucose levels, and may also involve scans of the liver and gallbladder.

Patients who have a family history of liver disease or all patients or individuals who consume significant amounts of alcohol should also go for regular health checks. This includes liver tests, glucose and cholesterol tests, as well as screening them for hepatitis viruses. If they are not immune to them, we suggest that they should get vaccinated.