Posts tagged: warning signs

Fatty Liver Does Not Show Up In Scans Until It Is Too Late – Here Are 7 Early Warning Signs To Look Out For

Fatty Liver Does Not Show Up In Scans Until It Is Too Late - Here Are 7 Early Warning Signs To Look Out For
Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com. Image © shutterstock.com (under license)

Fatty liver disease is pretty self-explanatory; it is a condition characterized by a build-up of extra fat in the liver. Typically, fatty liver disease occurs in two ways: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) or alcoholic liver disease (ALD). Both kinds are equally worrying and suggest that drastic change in lifestyle choices to prevent further damage to your liver. In fact, the symptoms for this kind condition are quite vague and you don’t really know how serious it is until it is too late.

Concerning Health Consequences Of Fatty Liver

Liver cancer or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCCA/HCC) affects millions of people all over the world. According to the American Cancer Society, over 700,000 people each year are diagnosed with liver cancer, with liver cancer ranking high as one of the leading causes of cancer deaths worldwide. Approximately 600,000 deaths each year are due to liver cancer. In fact, the incidence rates for liver cancer have tripled since 1980; mortality rates have seen a 3 percent steady increase each year since 2000. So how does fatty liver disease fit into all this? [1]

Fatty liver disease, whether due to a bad diet or a drinking problem, is a serious condition where the liver becomes inflamed due to fat deposits. The persistent liver injury or damage eventually causes scarring of otherwise healthy tissue, which is now called cirrhosis, a more serious form of liver disease. Cirrhosis is practically irreversible, even with proper diet and lifestyle changes, so it goes without saying that prevention is the key. According to the Mayo Clinic, roughly 20 percent of non-alcoholic liver disease progresses to liver cirrhosis. In 2016, Marengo, et. al. mentioned that the burden of hepatocellular carcinoma can be attributed to the rising rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic liver disease, which are replacing alcoholic liver disease as primary contributors to developing liver cancer. [2][3]

So what warning signs should you watch out for? Here are seven of the most common signs that you may be suffering from a fatty liver. The first few signs are quite general and can lead to other diagnoses but they are warning signs all the same, especially if they all occur together.

1. Pain – Pain, specifically abdominal pain, usually in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen can be a sign of an inflamed liver. The pain can also radiate to the back or to the entire abdomen. Inflamed liver tissue can be detected during a physical exam, wherein the abdomen is palpated, but usually this signifies that the liver damage is already moderate to severe. In fact, fatty liver tissue is quite hard to detect even in abdominal scans until it is, quite simply put, too late.

2. Poor appetite – If your abdomen hurts, there is a high likelihood that you won’t have much of an appetite. However, aside from the discomfort, a fatty liver that has become inflamed and enlarged may also compress your stomach and lead to a decrease in appetite.

3. Weight loss – A combination of pain and poor appetite can lead to eventual weight loss and the fourth warning sign on this list. You may be wondering why weight loss is a warning sign when obesity is one of the causes of fatty liver disease. If a person is obese or overweight drastically loses weight accompanied by the other symptoms on this list, chances are the weight loss was due to the progression of liver disease.

4. Fatigue and weakness – Fatigue and weakness are general symptoms for any sort of illness. Because of poor nutritional intake, persistent abdominal pain, and weight loss, people affected by fatty liver disease will find themselves with easy fatiguability and generalized weakness.

5. Confusion – Mental confusion is caused by the build of toxic substances in the blood which can cause problems with your brain and neurologic system. Remember, one of the main functions of the liver is to help detoxify the blood and metabolize certain nutrients and substances. If the liver tissue is damaged, it can cause a build up of harmful substances in the blood, very similar to delirium and confusion caused by kidney failure (the kidneys also filter out toxins from our blood). Difficulty concentrating and confusion are signs that your liver may not be functioning at optimal levels.

6. Ascites – Ascites is a term used to described fluid build-up in the abdomen. This symptom, along with jaundice, is actually a late warning sign, signaling that the fatty liver problem may have progressed to cirrhosis. Fluid build up in the abdomen is actually a form of third-spacing, wherein the excess fluid becomes trapped in the space outside of the vessels in the abdomen or the peritoneal cavity. The fluid build-up can be caused by a variety of factors, such as portal vein hypertension, hepatic insufficiency, and abnormal albumin levels in the blood – all three of which are caused by liver disease. [4]

7. Jaundice – The most apparent sign, and quite a late warning sign to be honest, is jaundice. Jaundice is the yellowing of the skin, sclera (the whites of the eyes), and mucous membranes. The yellowing of the skin is caused by excess bilirubin in the blood (hyperbilirubinemia), which is processed by liver tissue and excreted in the urine (the reason why our urine is yellow). [5]

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or a combination thereof, please seek prompt medical attention.

References:

[1] American Cancer Society. Key Statistics About Liver Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer/about/what-is-key-statistics.html

[2] Mayo Clinic. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354567

[3] Marengo, A., Rosso, C. & Bugianesi, E. (2016). Liver Cancer: Connections with Obesity, Fatty Liver, and Cirrhosis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26473416

[4] Arroyo, V. (2002). Pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment of ascites in cirrhosis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15115971

[5] Sullivan, J. & Rockey, D. (2017). Diagnosis and evaluation of hyperbilirubinemia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28333690

10 Signs You May Have A Thyroid Problem (And 10 Things You Can Do About It)

10 Signs You Have A Thyroid Problem
10 Signs You May Have A Thyroid Problem. Thryroid image source – © GRei – shutterstock.com

The thyroid gland is a part of the endocrine system which produces and regulates hormones in the body. This small, butterfly-shaped organ can be found in the front part of the neck, only palpable when a person swallows (as the thyroid moves up and down). The thyroid produces several hormones, namely: thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH), thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The hormones produced by the thyroid regulate growth, metabolism, and body temperature – which is why thyroid problems (either an underproduction or overproduction of hormones) usually affect weight, activity, and physical development. [1]

Hypothyroidism (UNDERactive thyroid, does not make enough thyroid hormone) and hyperthyroidism (OVERactive thyroid, makes too much thyroid hormone) are two very different conditions, although some signs and symptoms like fatigue are found in both. [2] Managing thyroid problems involves observing these signs and symptoms so recognizing what exact condition you may have is very important. Note – this article is not intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. If you have symptoms or think you may have thyroid problems, consult your doctor for actual diagnosis and treatment.

Hypothyroidism is characterized by:

1. Weight gain, caused by decreased metabolism.

2. Slow response to stress (“fight or flight” response), caused by decreased sensitivity to adrenal hormones.

3. Slower reflexes and decreased muscle tone.

4. Fatigue, caused by decreased cardiac output and slower heart rate.

5. Constipation, caused by decreased gastrointestinal motility.

Hyperthyroidism is characterized by:

6. Weight loss, caused by increased metabolic rate.

7. Heightened stress response, caused by increased sensitivity to adrenal hormones.

8. Tremors and twitching, caused by increased muscle tone and reflexes.

9. Fatigue, caused by irregular heart beat (palpitations) due to increased cardiac output and faster heart rate.

10. Diarrhea, caused by increased gastrointestinal motility.

10 Tips For How To Manage A Thyroid Condition

1. If fatigued, spread out your activities throughout the day – fatigue can be combated by giving enough time to perform each daily activity and allowing for rest periods in between. [3]

2. Speaking of rest– be sure to maintain a regular sleeping schedule. If you sleep at the same time every night, you are more likely to wake up well-rested in the morning.

3. Adjust your caloric intake. If you have hypothyroidism, you have to decrease caloric intake to prevent weight gain. [3]

4. If you have hyperthyroidism, you have to increase caloric intake to meet the needs of a higher metabolic rate. [3]

5. Increase fiber intake if you are having problems with constipation (e.g. green leafy vegetables). [3]

6. If you are experiencing diarrhea, try including bulk-forming foods in your diet (e.g. bananas). [3]

7. Increase your protein intake to keep up with protein synthesis problems, characteristic of thyroid problems.

8. Take time to relax. Stress can aggravate the symptoms of thyroid malfunction so keep stress levels to a minimum can help prevent the signs and symptoms from getting worse. [4]

9. You can take iodine supplements to help with thyroid function, but only after conferring with your physician. Pregnant women who are at risk for hypothyroidism are advised to take iodine supplements to improve the levels of their thyroid hormones. [5]

10. Remember to monitor your thyroid function levels with regular blood tests. Medical management is a very important part in preventing the adverse signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Further Reading: Top 10 Herbs For The Thyroid

References:

[1] National Institute of Health (2014). Thyroid Diseases.http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/thyroiddiseases.html

[2] Porth, C. (2002). Pathophysiology: Concepts of Altered Health States. p912

[3] Smeltzer, S., et. al. (2010). Brunner and Suddarth’s Textbook of Medical-Surgical Nursing. p1259

[4] Mizokami, T., et. al. (2005). Stress and Thyroid Autoimmunity. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/thy.2004.14.1047

[5] Moleti, M., et. al. (2011). Maternal thyroid function in different conditions of iodine nutrition in pregnant women exposed to mild-moderate iodine deficiency: an observational study. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21521276

10 Warning Signs Of Cervical Cancer Women Shouldn’t Ignore

10 Warning Signs Of Cervical Cancer Women Shouldn’t Ignore
Graphics © herbshealthhappiness.com. Image © enterlinedesign – Adobe Stock (under license)

The American Cancer Society predicts that there will be approximately 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer in 2016, with mortality at 4,120 – around 1 in 3 of those diagnosed. The CDC reports the almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV, a virus transmitted through sexual intercourse. Because of this, Pap smear tests have become an increasingly important part of the cervical screening. The good news is that over the past 30 years, cervical cancer mortality has actually gone down by 50 percent because women are being more vigilant regarding screening. Other risk factors include smoking, prolonged use of birth control pills, having three or more children, and having unprotected sexual intercourse with several partners. [1][2]

Screening – both by a physician and by your own self-examination – is such an important aspect of saving lives because the earlier the disease is caught, the greater the chances of cure.

Here are 10 warning signs of possible cervical cancer to be aware of.

1 – Bleeding Between Menstrual Cycles
In healthy women, bleeding normally occurs only during the menstrual cycle, when the uterus builds up and sheds its lining (FYI, one menstrual cycle starts from the first day of bleeding until the day before the next bleeding, which signifies the start of the next cycle). Normal cycles usually last between 21 to 35 days; because of this variation, some women do not bleed every month. What’s important is that you are aware how long your cycle should be and if there are any noticeable delays (give or take a few days is usually pretty normal). Be aware of your normal menstrual cycle and note any abnormal bleeding. Once the initial bleed at the beginning your cycle has stopped, there shouldn’t be a recurrence until the start of the next menstrual cycle. [3]

2 – Bleeding After Sexual Intercourse, Douching, Or Pelvic Examination
A lot of women are under the impression that first time sexual intercourse should cause bleeding and that bleeding during “rough” sex is normal. Wrong. Sexual intercourse, douching, or pelvic examinations should only cause mild to moderate discomfort – never “real pain” or bleeding. The vagina is made up of elastic tissue and persistent pain or bleeding can signify a problem with your cervix. Cervical cancer has characterized the formation of lesions on the cervix as cancer cells rapidly spread through cervical tissue. This causes bleeding and discharge not associated with the normal shedding of the uterine lining. [4]

3 – Bleeding After Menopause
Unlike men, a woman’s fertile period has an end – menopause. Menopause typically happens in a woman’s 40s or 50s when the menstrual cycles stop. During the last 23 months of fertility, women undergoing menopause experience irregular cycles, hot flashes, and emotional changes – basically your menstrual cycle tapers off. Any bleeding after menopause should be a cause of concern because bleeding is a hallmark symptom of cervical cancer. [4][5]

4 – Increased Vaginal Discharge
Some women experience white discharge from their vagina (sometimes called “white menstruation”), which can be white to very pale yellow in color – however, this normal kind of discharge is just an overproduction of mucus during the menstrual cycle. Note an increase or change in the consistency, color, or amount of your normal vaginal discharge, especially if the discharge contains blood. Abnormal, foul-smelling, or blood-tinged discharge is typically seen in advanced stages of cervical cancer where the lesions on the cervix have become infected. [6][7]

The first four symptoms focus on one major symptom – bleeding. Bleeding that is out of the norm could be coming from damage or growth in or on cervical tissue, which happens when cancer cells have already affected the cervix and formed lesions. [4]

5 — Irregularities In Your Menstrual Cycle
Aside from abnormal bleeding, cervical cancer can also affect the hormones in the body, causing a disruption in the normal menstrual cycle. This symptom is indicative of metastases to the ovaries, the part of the female reproductive system responsible for the production of hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. The proximity of the uterus and ovaries to the cervix make them prime areas for metastasis ovarian cancer. When cancer cells invade ovarian tissue, it can cause an overproduction or underproduction of hormones – which make your cycle shorter or longer. In a study in 2006, ovarian metastasis from cervical cancer occurred in 1.5% of the total number of subjects and was more likely to occur in squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix. [8][9]

6 – Pelvic Pain
Women commonly feel pain in the pelvic area during ovulation and menstruation but intense and prolonged pain may be caused by something else; seek medical attention immediately if the pelvic pain is persistent and is not relieved by medication. Cervical lesions and metastasis to other areas near the cervix can cause severe pelvic pain aside from bleeding. A study on cervical cancer in Malawi revealed that pain was the most commonly identified symptom among cervical cancer patients and is the most commonly under-treated. [10]

7 – Problems With Urination
Painful or uncomfortable urination can indicate many things, including that cervical cancer may have already spread to the tissue of the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. This can manifest in several ways: (1) frequent urination, (2) painful urination, (3) bladder distension even with frequent urination, and (4) poor urine output. If a tumor presses on the bladder, you will often feel a persistent urge to urinate and/or be unable to completely empty your bladder when you do. A similar thing happens when the tumor presses on the urethra, the duct from the bladder where urine passes. Because of this blockage, you can experience pain when you urinate and even manifest bladder distension. [5]

8 – Leg Pain And Edema (Swelling)
Similarly, metastases of cervical cancer to the lymph nodes in the inguinal area can block the circulation to and from the leg. This causes pain and edema (swelling) in one or both legs as lymph fluid and blood become stuck in the blood vessels in the leg, extravasating to interstitial space and causing edema. This can even occur after having lymph surgery associated with cervical cancer. [11]

9 – Urine Or Stool In The Vagina
Advanced stages of cervical cancer can cause great damage to surrounding tissue. The leakage of urine or stool into the vagina can be caused by a fistula forming between the vagina and either the bladder or rectal/anal canal. A fistula is an abnormal opening that is created by the tissue damage caused by the spread of cervical cancer cells. A study found a link between the human papillomavirus (HPV) and anal cancer, the former being one of the primary causes of cervical cancer. [12]

10 – Sudden Weight Loss And Fatigue
As with all cancers, sudden weight loss and fatigue are possible signs. Cancer cells grow and multiply at an alarming, uncontrollable rate, which taxes the body – leading to loss of weight and energy. The formation of tumors also take a lot out of the body, competing with the body’s healthy cells for blood flow, and the oxygen and nutrition found in the blood.

References:

[1] CDC. What Are the Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer? http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/risk_factors.htm

[2] American Cancer Society. What are the key statistics about cervical cancer? http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervicalcancer/detailedguide/cervical-cancer-key-statistics

[3] Mayo Clinic. Menstrual cycle: What’s normal, what’s not. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menstrual-cycle/art-20047186

[4] Jin, X. (2010). Cervical Cancer Screening and Prevention. http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/womens-health/cervical-cancer/

[5] Mayo Clinic. Menopause. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/basics/definition/con-20019726

[6] Sutter Health. Vaginal discharge. http://www.pamf.org/teen/health/femalehealth/discharge.html

[7] Pandey, D., et. al. (2015). Cervical Cancer as a silent killer: A rare case report with review of literature. http://www.cancerjournal.net/article.asp?issn=0973-1482;year=2015;volume=11;issue=3;spage=653;epage=653;aulast=Pandey

[8] Shimada, M., et. al. (2006). Ovarian metastasis in carcinoma of the uterine cervix. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16300819

[9] Bankhead, C., Kehoe, S. & Austoker, J. (2005). Symptoms associated with diagnosis of ovarian cancer: a systematic review. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2005.00572.x/full

[10] Bates, M. & Mijoya, A. (2015). A review of patients with advanced cervical cancer presenting to palliative care services at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4688869/

[11] Ohba, Y., et. al. (2011). Risk factors for lower-limb lymphedema after surgery for cervical cancer. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10147-010-0171-5#page-2

[12] Daling, J., et. a; (2004). Human papillomavirus, smoking, and sexual practices in the etiology of anal cancer. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.20365/full