Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how your body metabolizes sugar. It happens when your body becomes resistant to insulin. This can lead to complications, including liver disease.
In many cases, liver disease causes no noticeable symptoms until it’s very advanced. That can make it harder to detect and get early treatment for liver disease.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to lower your risk of liver disease with type 2 diabetes.
Read on to learn more about liver disease in type 2 diabetes, and how to reduce your risk.
An estimated 30.3 million people in the United States have diabetes. Most of those people have type 2 diabetes.
People with type 2 diabetes are at risk of several liver-related conditions, including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), severe liver scarring, liver cancer, and liver failure.
Of these, NAFLD is particularly common in people with type 2 diabetes.
NAFLD is a condition in which excess fat builds up in your liver.
Typically, fat around the liver is associated with heavy drinking.
But in NAFLD, the accumulation of fat isn’t caused by alcohol consumption. It’s possible to develop NAFLD with type 2 diabetes, even if you rarely drink alcohol.
According to a
NAFLD severity also tends to be worsened by the presence of diabetes.
“Scientists believe a metabolic breakdown in the body, such as that seen in type 2 diabetes, results in fatty acids being released into the blood, ultimately accumulating in a ready receptacle — the liver,” reports the University of Florida Health Newsroom.
NAFLD itself usually causes no symptoms, but it can raise the risk of other conditions such as liver inflammation or cirrhosis. Cirrhosis develops when liver damage causes scar tissue to replace healthy tissue, making it harder for the liver to work properly.
NAFLD is also associated with increased risk of liver cancer.
If you’re living with type 2 diabetes, there are several steps you can take to protect your liver.
All of these measures are part of a healthy lifestyle. They may help lower your risk of some other complications from type 2 diabetes, too.
Maintain a healthy weight
Many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or have obesity. That can be a contributing factor to NAFLD. It also raises the risk of liver cancer.
Weight loss can play an important part in helping to reduce liver fat and the risk of liver disease.
Consult with your doctor on healthy ways to lose weight.
Manage your blood sugar
Working with your health team to monitor and manage your blood sugar is another line of defense against NAFLD.
To manage your blood sugar, it may help to:
- incorporate foods that are rich in fiber and healthy carbohydrates into your diet
- eat at regular intervals
- only eat until you’re full
- get regular exercise
It’s also important to take any medications that your doctor prescribes to manage your blood sugar. Your doctor will also let you know how often your blood sugar should be tested.
Eat a well-balanced diet
To help manage type 2 diabetes and lower your risk of liver disease and other complications, your doctor may advise you to make changes in your diet.
For example, they may encourage you to limit foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt.
It’s also important to eat a wide variety of nutrient- and fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Consistent exercise helps to burn triglycerides for fuel, which can also reduce liver fat.
Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise, 5 days per week.
Reduce high blood pressure
Exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet can help prevent and lower high blood pressure.
People can also reduce high blood pressure by:
- reducing sodium in their diet
- quitting smoking
- cutting back on caffeine
Limit alcohol intake
Drinking in excess can create many health problems. When it comes to the liver in particular, alcohol can damage or destroy liver cells.
Drinking in moderation or abstaining from alcohol prevents this.
In many cases, NAFLD causes no symptoms. That’s why it can come as a surprise to people if they’re diagnosed with liver disease.
If you’re living with type 2 diabetes, it’s important to check in with your doctor on a regular basis. They can screen you for potential complications, including liver disease. For example, they may order liver enzyme tests or ultrasound exams.
NAFLD and other types of liver disease are often diagnosed after routine blood tests or ultrasound exams show signs of a problem, such as high liver enzymes or scarring.
You should also let your doctor know if you develop any of the following symptoms:
- yellowish skin and eyes, known as jaundice
- pain and swelling in your abdomen
- swelling in your legs and ankles
- skin itching
- dark colored urine
- pale or tar colored stool
- blood in your stool
- chronic fatigue
- nausea or vomiting
- reduced appetite
- increased bruising
One of the potential complications of type 2 diabetes is liver disease, including NAFLD.
Checking in regularly with your doctor and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are essential steps you can take to protect your liver and manage your risk of complications from type 2 diabetes.
Liver disease doesn’t always cause noticeable symptoms, but it can cause serious damage. That’s why it’s so important to attend regular checkups with your doctor and follow their recommendations for liver screening tests.