Fatty liver disease: The spider-like sign on your face, neck and arms – how to spot it

Liver Disease: Expert discusses risks and symptoms

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“Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a chronic condition caused by too much fat being stored inside the liver cells, which is not due to alcohol,” said Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy. One symptom which could point to this diagnosis is spider naevi.

Dr Lee said: “It is important to note that the majority of people with NAFLD have no symptoms and are unaware they have it.”

The NHS explains that there are not many symptoms popping up in the early stages of fatty liver disease.

Many people only find out when they are being tested for something else.

However, the condition can cause some signs to appear as it progresses, including spider naevi.

The expert shared that this sign, which describes dilated blood vessels, belongs to “common” symptoms of liver dysfunction.

When it comes to the area where it can occur, spots include the face, neck, trunk and your arms.

The National Library of Medicine shares this sign, also known as spider angioma, is characterised by anomalous dilatation of end arteries found just beneath your skin.

They explain: “The lesion contains a central, red spot and reddish extensions which radiate outward like a spider’s web.

“They may appear as multiple or solitary lesions.

“A spider angioma has three features: a body, legs, and surrounding erythema.

“The body appears as a one to 10 mm central arteriole visible as a punctum or eminence.

“It is typically painless, resembles a spider’s body, and is surrounded by attenuated capillaries radiating in a spider-legged fashion, decreasing in size toward the margins.”

However, this spider-like sign isn’t the only symptom associated with fatty liver disease.

According to the NHS, the condition develops in four main stages, with stages two and three being linked to some signs.

People with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) or fibrosis may suffer from:

  • Dull or aching pain in the top right of the tummy (over the lower right side of the ribs)
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness.

Fortunately, Dr Lee explained that “much can be achieved” through lifestyle tweaks.

She recommended a list of specific foods that could help:

  • Garlic – This can help lower BMI in those with NAFLD
  • Omega 3 fatty acids – found in oily fish, flax seeds, and walnuts. These are healthy unsaturated fats which can reduce the amount of fat in the liver and increase levels of HDL cholesterol
  • Coffee – Decaffeinated coffee has been shown to reduce liver inflammation
  • Broccoli – High in antioxidants, it may help reduce fat storage in the liver
  • Soy or whey protein – This has been shown to reduce the amount of liver fat in a group of obese women with NAFLD.

Another useful intervention is exercise. The expert added: “You need to undertake 150-300 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise (MIT).

“This is any exercise that increases your heart rate and makes you feel sweaty and slightly out of breath, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or dancing.”

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