Routine blood tests can help identify people with Type 2 diabetes at increased risk of advanced chronic liver disease, according to a new study presented at Diabetes UK’s annual Diabetes Professional Conference.
The study, carried out by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, analysed a wide range of liver blood tests on 922 participants over a four-year period and found that participants with abnormal tests for liver function and structure were significantly more likely to develop chronic liver disease than those with normal readings.
People with Type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of advanced chronic liver disease; however, there is currently no consensus on the best way to identify these people. This study shows that routine liver blood tests can help to find those with Type 2 who are at risk.
Advanced chronic liver disease, which refers to a wide range of conditions including cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer, has multiple causes. In people with Type 2 diabetes it is most commonly caused by having a fatty liver. One of the major risk factors for it is being overweight, which is also an important risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Research conducted in 2011 by the University of Edinburgh suggested that people with diabetes are 70 per cent more likely to die from liver disease than those without the condition.
Simon O’Neill, Director of Health Intelligence and Professional Liaison for Diabetes UK, said, "This study suggests that routine liver tests can help identify people with Type 2 diabetes at increased risk of advanced chronic liver disease. While more research is needed to work out the exact association between the abnormal liver readings identified in the study and advanced chronic liver disease, this is an interesting development as advanced chronic liver disease is a very serious condition that in most cases is fatal.
"Several studies have found Type 2 diabetes to be an independent risk factor for the progression of chronic liver disease, but at the moment most people with Type 2 diabetes who develop chronic liver disease are only diagnosed once the condition is already advanced. If people at risk were identified earlier this would help ensure that they get the support and care they needed to reduce their risk or start treatment that could, in most cases, help to prolong their life"
Lead researcher for the study, Dr Joanne Morling, from the University of Edinburgh, said, "The study highlights the need for clinicians to use liver tests and checks to help identify people with Type 2 diabetes at risk of the condition. Currently, people with Type 2 diabetes have regular liver blood test checks, but there is no guidance for managing people found to have abnormal readings, which means they may only be diagnosed once they are seriously ill. If liver cirrhosis is detected early patients can be monitored for complications such as liver cancer which have an improved outcome when treated earlier.
"The results of this study are really promising and potentially could have huge benefits to the lives of people with Type 2 diabetes as advanced chronic liver disease is a very serious condition. Longer timescale studies and further follow up with participants will now be needed to map the mechanisms behind the abnormal readings identified in the study."