Steps to protect your skin, liver this winter

With the winter holidays, two major organs are at increased risk of damage: skin and liver.

While most northerners know to protect their skin from cold to prevent frostbite, 80 percent of skin aging is due to other environmental factors, including low humidity causing dry, cracked skin followed by itching and rash.

Until spring, reduce the water temperature of showers and apply a heavy moisturizer or unscented oil after washing. With all the paper wrapping and Christmas cards you’ll handle, fingertips and cuticles can crack and bleed. One solution is to keep petroleum jelly on the nightstand and apply it to fingertips and nails at bedtime.

The other organ damaged is liver: 25 percent of Americans now have fatty liver disease, which occurs almost exclusively in overweight persons. Other risks for fatty liver include diabetes and high cholesterol. The holiday food can compound body weight and encouraged alcohol consumption — both of which are harmful to persons with fatty liver disease.

Why is this a problem? Left unchecked, fatty liver can progress to cirrhosis which eventually causes early death from liver failure. Fatty liver disease now accounts for U.S. medical costs approaching that for diabetes.

While there are several treatments in clinical trials, there are no known medications available to effectively stop this progression. Proven treatments to slow or reverse fatty liver are: losing at least 7 percent body weight, abstaining form alcohol, abstaining from high fructose products and limiting caffeine to two standard drinks a day.

May your Christmas be merry and healthful.

Allan P. Frank, MD, MS

Alpena

Assistant Clinical Professor, MSU College of Human Medicine