Blood tests to highlight unsafe drinking

Colour-coded warnings to show potential liver problems

There is a serious problem regarding liver disease in the UK. FACT. In the past 30 years, examples of liver disease have gone down in Europe, yet have risen by 500% in the UK.

Research undertaken at the University of Southampton has discovered a new way to test if patients may be at risk, with traffic light colour-coded blood tests revealing hidden liver damage.

Combining routine liver tests with two others, it measures the levels of scarring of the liver, known as fibrosis. Although the liver can heal itself to some extent, permanent damage can be caused by constant onslaught.

The new test uses colour-coded warnings which can suggest how likely the patient could be affected by the disease. ‘Green’ highlights there is unlikely damage, ‘amber’ suggests a 50:50 chance, whereas ‘red’ points to probable damage which can potentially be irreversible.

Tested on 1,000 patients at the University of Southampton, results reveal the traffic light test to be an accurate indicator to the level of severity of liver disease, with 2/3 of those given ‘red’ or ‘amber’ lights subsequently drinking less.

Dr Nick Sheron, who devised the test said, ‘It is a powerful tool and message for people. We find that for most patients this is a pretty good stimulus to stop drinking or at least to cut down to safe levels.’

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) advises no more than 21 units a week should be consumed by men and 14 for women.

Andrew Langford of the British Liver Trust explained, ‘If we are to make an in-road in reducing liver deaths – the only big killer increasing year on year – we have to make it easier for primary care to better understand the management of liver conditions as well as spotting the signs early.’

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