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Patients with liver disease should take extra precautions during COVID-19

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Having a pre-existing liver disease makes patients vulnerable to any infection or virus.

Liver disorder is a silent but progressive disease that affects thousands of people in the UAE. The most common liver disorder is Fatty Liver or Hepatic Steatosis due to obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol levels.

According to Dr Emad Fayyad, a consultant gastroenterologist at Medcare Hospital Al Safa in Dubai, the liver disease tends to affect more men than women, not just in the UAE but globally. “This can be partly because, in general, men drink excessively more alcohol than women and thus, tend to be affected by obesity more than women,” he explains.

When asked about whether people with pre-existing liver disease are more at risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19, Dr Fayyad says that the simple answer is yes, they are.

“Having a pre-existing liver disease makes the patient very vulnerable to any infection and can see serious complications arise when a person is affected by a virus such as COVID-19, which affects the immune system as the virus will be fighting against a weaker, already impaired immunity system,” he says. “COVID-19 generally has a tropism to the lungs, but in serious cases, it can attack the liver, which can sometimes lead to death.”

“There haven’t been any direct cases of those with COVID-19 developing liver disease, but it might be a secondary symptom because of the symptoms that COVID-19 might develop, “ he adds.

People suffering from liver disease must take extra precautions when trying to protect themselves from catching COVID-19. This includes avoiding excessive crowds, maintaining good hygiene, washing their hands thoroughly and often, ensuring they practice social distancing, and getting a periodic liver function test and complete blood test to ensure that their white blood cells aren’t too low.

Symptoms of liver disease

“The first level of treatment in helping to alleviate liver disease is to maintain a healthy diet, avoiding heavy and excessively fatty meals and alcohol, as this will help the liver to rejuvenate and regenerate itself, ” Dr Fayyad explains. “Some people don’t even realise that they might have liver disease as the symptoms tend to be quite vague, but if a person is experiencing fatigue, lethargy, loss of appetite, a mild fever, darker-than-usual urine, a yellowish discolouration of sclera, abdominal pain on the right-hand side, and wasting muscle, I’d recommend that they go and see their GP who might recommend they visit a gastroenterologist for a full check-up.”

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