Liver-related problems are on the rise: experts

Liver-related problems are on the rise: experts

Liver disease is the third most common disease affecting people of all age groups. Eminent people like Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, have undergone a liver transplant. Doctors believe that changing habits, the phenomenal increase of viral hepatitis in the developing world and lack of awareness are the main reasons for the high prevalence of liver disease in India.

 #Viral hepatitis (Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E)
 #Alcohol consumption
 #Autoimmune condition (where the body’s immunity works against its own liver cells)
 #Inherited disorders (like hemochromatosis and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency)
 #Cancers (either cancer starting in the liver — primary liver cancer, or cancer from other organs involving the liver secondarily — metastatic cancer)
 #Drugs (like an overdose of the common drug paracetamol)
 #Other infections (like amoebic liver abscess and bacterial liver abscess, and hydatid disease of the liver)

It is very important for people to realise that one can suffer liver damage without exhibiting obvious symptoms. The most common liver disease presents with jaundice. However, many people with end- stage liver disease may not have marked jaundice. Fluid accumulation in the legs and the abdomen, and vomiting of blood are the other common symptoms.

Cirrhosis: Any liver disease which causes prolonged damage to the liver will lead to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver slowly deteriorates and malfunctions. Scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue, partially blocking the flow of blood through the liver. Scarring also impairs the liver’s ability to control infections, remove bacteria and toxins from the blood, process nutrients, hormones and drugs, make proteins that regulate blood clotting, and produce bile to help absorb fats including cholesterol and fat-soluble vitamins. Liver cirrhosis also predisposes the liver to cancer.

Alcohol-related liver disease has become a common problem in India. Alcohol abuse over several years can cause chronic injury to the liver. The amount of alcohol it takes to damage the liver varies greatly from person to person. For women, consuming two to three drinks a day, including beer and wine,  could cause trouble, while for men, three to four drinks a day, can lead to liver damage. This data is from studies conducted abroad, mainly in Europe and the United States of America. Damage caused by alcohol also depends upon the concentration of alcohol.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is rising in India. Fat building up in the liver leads to cirrhosis. This increasingly common liver disease is associated with obesity, diabetes, protein malnutrition, coronary artery disease and corticosteroid medication.
Cirrhosis is a form of end-stage liver disease so anything which will prevent liver disease will prevent cirrhosis. Many common causes of liver disease are preventable.

Liver disease needs to be managed by specialists like hepatologists and liver surgeons. It is important to diagnose early and accurately and start treatment. There are treatments available for viral hepatitis and liver tumours. In the case of end-stage liver disease, that has developed in the form of cirrhosis or acute liver failure, liver transplantation is offered by way of treatment. Facilities for liver transplantation are available in select hospitals in India.