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Alarming new liver disease statistics for young Texas residents

A disturbing new report was published recently that will be of concern to our Houston readers. The report concerns the rapid increase in certain types of liver disease among younger folks, once thought of as a low risk group for the illness.

A study recently found that an increase in factors like obesity in children, as well as diabetes and high blood pressure, are contributing to a rise in liver transplant surgeries due to end-stage liver disease in this population. The study called out Texas in particular, noting that among residents, an aggressive form of liver disease affects 1 child in 10. A Texas doctor who contributed to the study observed children as young as 7 years old with the disease, and even one 13-year-old patient with cirrhosis of the liver stemming from it.

Further complicating the issue is the connection between liver disease and cancer. Whereas physicians would previously identify cirrhosis as a primary warning sign for liver cancer, liver disease seems to be leading more directly to cancer, with only minimal cirrhosis. Crucial detection of the condition therefore becomes a problem.

New studies to treat liver disease are underway, and may lead to more effective new medications down the road. For now, as children in Texas and elsewhere grow into adults with more serious health problems at earlier ages, expensive procedures like organ transplant surgery may become more likely. Recovery from such a surgery can be a lengthy process and patients may need to consider applying for Social Security Disability benefits for illness to support themselves during this time. We'll take a closer look at what happens after a surgery like this, and applying for benefits, in a follow-up post.

Source: Reuters, "Fatty liver disease fastest-growing reason for transplants in young U.S. adults," Carolyn Crist, Oct. 17, 2017

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