Now, a 'traffic light' test can tell whether or not a person has liver disease. Researchers say that the test could help reduce the number of people suffering from liver disease in the future.

Liver fibrosis, where certain proteins like collagen accumulate in the liver, and even the advanced stage of liver fibrosis, liver cirrhosis or liver failure, is usually symptomless. The traffic light test can detect the presence of liver fibrosis and help physicians decide the best course of action.

Approximately 1,000 people were given the traffic light test. All the participants were monitored. Researchers found that the traffic light test was accurate in predicting health outcomes in many participants.

The test was developed by researchers from University of Southampton and combines tests for many biomarkers that show the level of liver fibrosis and liver cirrhosis. The traffic light test includes a blood test and two liver tests to determine the amount of liver scarring. The test results come in 3 colors; red meaning that the person has severe liver disease and requires immediate treatment, amber meaning that the person has a fifty percent chance of developing severe liver disease and green shows the person is unlikely to die due to liver disease.

People who have a 50 percent chance of developing liver disease can benefit by quitting alcohol. Research says that in some cases liver fibrosis can be reversed if the underlying cause (excessive drinking, overload of certain minerals) is treated.

"The traffic light test has the advantage of highlighting those at highest risk who should be investigated further and those in whom the risk is much lower where a watchful approach is more appropriate. This is not a universal screening test but if targeted at those in whom there is a suspicion of liver disease should result in a more rational approach to further investigation," said study co-author Dr. Michael Moore, from the Aldermoor Health Centre in Southampton.

The study was published in the British Journal of General Practice.