Learn to Love your liver
The liver is one of the most vital organs in our body. Comprising of 2% to 3% of average body weight, it, therefore, becomes one of our sole reasons to take utmost care of it. The decades of researching, practicing as a liver doctor, I now believe people around the globe have been partaking a hand in a ‘liver cross-fit
liver, to say, is the ‘commander in chief‘ to the body’s toxins removal. So, shouldn’t we all be guarded up in protecting it?
Intruders to a healthy liver:
There has been a progressive increase in Liver cirrhosis patients globally in the last few years. Thanks to people adopting an unhealthy lifestyle. Teenagers going for alcohol and smoking has become a style trend, and the problematic fact is that these bad habits have involved kids even at the school level. Thus, a sedentary lifestyle has resulted in having subsequent liver problems.
As Michael Friedman puts in, ” You never appreciate the functions your liver provides for you until it stops working.”
Let’s talk about the important causes and their distribution in the general population!
- Alcohol is one of the offenders for your disturbed liver functions. The age at presentation for the alcoholic liver disease has come down to 30-40 years in India compared to those in western countries where it is 45-55 years. An inherent susceptibility to liver damages exists in our population ( as compared to the west ), and underlying fatty liver has been the reason for more severe injuries caused by alcohol to our liver (compared to some races where the fatty liver has not been so common ).
- NAFLD (NON-alcoholic fatty Liver disease ), more commonly labeled as the fatty liver. This has been described as the most common cause of liver cirrhosis in the last few years. India being the diabetic capital of the World, this disease ( diabetes ) usually has an association with hypertension, hypothyroidism, obesity, and fatty liver ( known as metabolic syndrome ). With effective treatment available for many stubborn viruses now, NAFLD is likely to become the most crucial cause of liver cirrhosis in the coming years.
- Infections like hepatitis B and hepatitis C are important causes of cirrhosis. Viral hepatitis can infect you by use of shared needles ( drug abusers ), unsafe sex practices, and transfusion of infected blood ( seen less commonly now )
- Autoimmune hepatitis is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its host cells, making the liver inflamed. Statistics say this is a problem that affects females more than males.
- Genetic liver disease is an inherited disease that runs down the lineage. Some of these affect the Liver more than other organs, while others affect the liver as part of their organ involvement.
Unfortunately, most liver diseases show no early signs and symptoms. So by the time you realize that your liver has started to dysfunctional, it might already be a little too late! A simple question asked here is, “How can I access I am having a liver problem at an early stage?”
Based on the experience of many years, I have been asked this question multiple times. As doctors, the best suggestion we give is to undergo an annual health check-up. But, unfortunately, most of the patients only ask the question but forget to follow the suggestion of the treating doctors. Like any other problem, even here, people neglect the advice given by doctors and fail to understand the severity of the underlying problem.
People give a hind-thought, forethought, and I do not know how many other thoughts before considering to visit us and get the periodic health check-ups done or, in many cases, even get a treatment done. Simple reasoning coming out from them against paying a visit to a doctor comes in the form of a shallow pocket, ignorance, and prejudice as well. Alternatively, people resort to alternative medicine, home-based methods, which aggravate the severity of the disease on many occasions.
So what is more to it??
A rapidly degenerating shut-down liver function! The result of it is brought about by irreversible damage to the liver.
Any liver disease will remain asymptomatic till there has been a significant portion of damage to the liver. The signs and symptoms of liver malfunction are noticed only at a later stage. After the onset of cirrhosis, the early-stage problems can be managed medically with regular medicines and periodic check-ups. Unfortunately, late-stage cirrhosis has many associated complications, and a liver transplant is the only intervention that can be taken to revive the patient’s life.
Most Indian patients come to us at a very late stage, and unfortunately, many of them had no idea about the life-threatening nature of this liver disease. Some people have never been told they need liver transplants, and others suffered from misbelief, had financial and donor-related issues. Medicines prescribed to a patient are aimed at only symptomatic control. No medicine can reverse the damage that has occurred to your liver or can even cure it! ( a fact which is unknown to most people ).
Nevertheless, any symptoms of a dysfunctional liver should be kept an eye on and consulted by a doctor at the earliest. The symptoms may be:
- Ascites ( water in the abdomen )
- Pain abdomen with fever
- Irrelevant talks, forgetfulness, or even coma
- Respiratory problems
- Sudden anorexia and weight loss
It is imperative to do all the blood tests and USG diagnosis as per your doctor’s suggestion to address a problem at the earliest.
How bad is my Liver? : google and know
A patient with liver cirrhosis can fall in three different stages of disease severity, and there are scoring systems available to help you find the extent of damage and the best treatment for you ( as per your stage ). The scoring systems are namely:
- Child-Pugh Turcott’s
Only after a proper diagnosis can the doctor refer to all these tests and diagnostics, so delaying a doctor’s visit can cost you your life.
Thus, ‘A step in advance is an ounce of lesser pain later.’
Unfortunately, Liver cirrhosis is an irreversible disease. Patients in the early stages are managed medically for their associated problems ( there is no medicine to reverse the process of liver fibrosis and liver cirrhosis ), while those with more advanced stage liver cirrhosis qualify for a liver transplant.
Some essential medicines used for medical management of early cirrhosis;
- Diuretics ( in patients with leg swelling, water in abdomen or chest )
- Calcium and Magnesium
- Ursodeoxycholic Acid
All these medicines must be prescribed by your doctor and have to be taken under the proper supervision of your treating physician.
A liver transplant, however, is the only option left for those with advanced stages of liver cirrhosis.
However, its major hurdle comes in managing the resources and getting an organ for the patient’s ailing body. This wonderful treatment is, however, practical to a small proportion of the patients only. Contrary to 20,000 patients requiring liver transplants annually, we hardly perform 1500-2000 transplants in a calendar year.
We have to take steps to reduce this demand-supply discrepancy and save valuable human lives.
‘Prevention is better than cure.’
- Consuming hazardous substances like alcohol should be avoided
- Regular exercise and avoiding junk food will undoubtedly play a part in maintaining your body weight.
- Protect yourself from hepatitis virus infection
Finally, I would like to end by saying, ‘We should hold our liver as dear to our life.’
‘Keep your Liver healthy and disease-free.’