I'm twenty-one years old, and I have liver disease.
My particular flavour of liver disease is Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis, which basically means despite not being a drinker, my liver slowly turned to fat, then got inflamed and then started hardening into scar tissue - all without me knowing.
The risk factors for this particular kind of liver disease include being male, older, and obese. I score a solid 0/3 on the risk factor test, but my liver doesn't care. Now that I know I try to eat a low-fat diet, exercise moderately and have it scanned once a year to keep an eye on the rascal.
But the cold hard fact remains, liver disease is down with the kids: look out young-adults of the 21st Century - the liver's no age-ist.
Here's how it's going down.
1. That cool year round tan... oh wait, I mean jaundice. At least it's not orange! On the downside, your eyeballs are also tanned. And your liver isn't working.
2. Feeling no pain! That liver though - sneaky, sneaky organ deficiency, not causing symptoms, luring you into a false sense of security.
3. Too hipster for you, the liver doesn't get 'hurt' the liver suffers an 'insult' (that's the official medical term, fyi). How sure are you that you haven't offended it?
4. Think your heart/brain are the big bosses here? Think again, your liver is the one doing the lion's share of the body's work - HEAR IT ROAR. Oh wait, whimpering in pain, getting fat... slowly shutting down. But doing it stoically, see point two.
5. Wait - you want to stick a giant needle where?! (Hard-)core needle biopsy, not a joke.
6. Liver's a popular guy. Got that gallbladder hanging round trying to absorb its awesomeness. By awesomeness I obviously mean dysfunction and disease. Oh well, nobody likes a stoner.
7. Heard some pretty cool rumours about liver. Turns out he regenerates. Dr Who? Dr Liver. Oh wait, not when you have cirrhosis. What a quitter.
8. Wow what? Am I having a heart attack? Nope, that's your liver finally speaking up. He's trying to take your diaphragm down with him, hence the chest pain.
9. Now things aren't looking so hot, vomit and rip-your-own-skin-off itching aren't a good look - even with that slammin' tan. That's right, all that pent up liver rage has to come out some time - and boy, is that a lot of pent up liver rage.
The fun doesn't necessarily go down in the above order - I had jaundice during a moment where my gallbladder gave up, but am no longer unnaturally 'golden'. I'm hovering around the middle of the list and hopefully now that I know what's going on I can keep it there. Of course, without risk factors, it's hard to isolate why it's happened and therefore harder to slow down. But I can and will try. And I wouldn't have that chance if I hadn't known it was there.
Crucially, if you do have risk factors for this or other types of liver disease (obesity, high-fat diet, alcohol, take lots of medication like painkillers to name a few) you can nip it before it even gets to bud.