Age, lifestyle and other factors can all affect the health of the liver, whether you are HIV positive or not. But, liver health can decline more quickly in people living with HIV and there are some additional factors that put strain on the liver which people living with HIV should be aware of. These include:
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is becoming increasingly common in people with HIV. This has been linked to the long-term use of some, but not all, HIV medications.
Talk to your healthcare team about when to start HIV treatment or to review the medications you take. Also ask about your routine blood test results that show how your liver is working.
The liver has a vital role in the way your body works, it helps:
The liver is put under greater strain the more medications or toxins (such as alcohol) it has to process.
As we get older, the liver becomes less active and less efficient at digesting food and cleaning unwanted chemicals, which can lead to liver problems.
Liver disease is a broad term used to describe many problems that affect the liver and make it less active. These include:
Many people living with HIV have no problems with their liver. However, if you have HIV and particularly if you also have hepatitis B or C and/or drink heavily, your liver is likely to be under greater strain and more prone to problems.
Your healthcare team can assess your risk of developing liver disease; they may do the following:
One of the most effective ways to look after your liver is to lead a healthy lifestyle, even if you already have liver disease.
Talk to your healthcare team to review the amount of medications you take. This is because high levels of over the counter and prescription medicines (including HIV medication) can slow the liver’s ability to remove waste from the body. If this happens, you may begin to experience side-effects from your medication.
Your healthcare team can also advise you on how best to look after your liver, which is even more important if you are also living with hepatitis B or hepatitis C.