Mum backs campaign to dispel liver disease myths

A woman raises awareness in the South Asian community about liver disease and the stigma surrounding it, which can prevent people from seeking treatment.

People from certain parts of South Asia are at higher risk for NAFLD, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and delays in seeking support can lead to life-threatening disease progression.

Anninder Khatka was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis earlier this year. It causes the body’s immune system to attack its own cells.

She said: “There is a lot of stigma around liver conditions in general. I think it stems from a lack of awareness of the wide range of conditions and not talking about them enough with our friends, family and within our communities.

“I always talk around about my conditions to spread the word. The word hepatitis means inflamed liver and autoimmune hepatitis is not well known. If I hadn’t been monitored because of my lupus, my story could have been very different.

“Regardless of the state of a person’s liver or any condition it is related to, we should support and help everyone without judgment or prejudice. It is a principle by which I try to live my life, guided by my Sikh beliefs. By talking more, we can build understanding and awareness and play a role in removing stigma and focusing on supporting and helping people.

If detected at an early stage, liver damage can be reversed. However, it is often diagnosed late because symptoms are either vague or non-existent in the early states. Three-quarters of people diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver are discovered when it is too late for effective intervention or treatment, and one in four people diagnosed late in hospital unfortunately die within months.

She said: ‘I felt very weak and fell asleep at work. At times, I even felt like I was fainting. The exhaustion was beyond anything I have ever experienced and no amount of sleep or rest could shake it and my urine was bright orange.

Anninder had previously been diagnosed with two other autoimmune diseases – Sjögren’s syndrome, where the immune system attacks the tear, salivary and sweat glands; and SLE lupus which constantly hurt his body and caused a rash on his face. As a result, doctors were monitoring his health closely and were therefore able to diagnose autoimmune hepatitis more quickly.

Liver disease deaths have doubled in the past 20 years, with more than 10,500 people dying each year. The Trust is the UK’s largest adult liver charity and leads the fight against liver disease and liver cancer.

Pamela Healy, OBE, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust, said: “We are very grateful to Anninder for sharing her story on our website and applaud her enthusiasm and determination to get people talking about liver disease. As she puts it so well, we all need to talk about liver disease because it can help save lives.

Learn more about Anninder’s story here

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