Lifestyle Health and Wellbeing 20 Apr 2017 Pay more attention t ...

Pay more attention to liver, say doctors

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | ANNA SAKHI JOHN
Published Apr 20, 2017, 7:51 am IST
Updated Apr 20, 2017, 8:27 am IST
On World Liver Day (Wednesday), doctors have urged the public to understand the importance of liver.
 On World Liver Day (Wednesday), doctors have urged the public to understand the importance of liver.

Chennai: On World Liver Day (Wednesday), doctors have urged the public to understand the importance of liver. Excessive intake of fatty foods, high alcohol consumption, and the lack of exercise are only a few factors responsible in killing the second largest organ in the human body, the liver. Due to lack of awareness about the organ’s key role in the body’s digestive system, and about the inability to survive without it, many tend to develop various habits that tend to kill the organ.

“The liver is like a factory which breaks down whatever food we eat and rebuilds what is necessary for our body. It also metabolizes a lot of drugs we take. It plays an important role in detoxification, serving as a barrier preventing infections or toxins from entering the blood. With these major roles to play, if the liver fails, a lot of bodily functions will get affected,” said Dr Dinesh Jothimani, senior consultant Liver Transplant Physician, Global Hospital.

The organ, which is unique – in that has the ability to regenerate – would try to grow back even if it has an injury. However, if the damage has been occurring over many years - due to viral Hepatitis such as Hepatitis B or C, or consumption of alcohol - it can lead to chronic liver disease, added the doctor. With the lack of any symptoms - thereby the condition remaining untreated - scar tissues start to settle in the liver, leading to liver cirrhosis. Stating that patients can be completely asymptomatic even with cirrhosis, Dr R. Vignesh, a gastroenterologist, said, “Patients may not have any symptoms except for mild tiredness, until the liver completely fails leading to end stage liver disease – which when it develops, the patients will have conditions like fluid in their belly, swollen legs, altered consciousness, episodes of confusion and they may vomit blood. When the patient presents these symptoms at the hospital, doctors find that he has end stage liver disease.”

Since the organ is huge, it tends to be able to cope with many injuries over a period of time before causing any symptoms. Patients with end stage liver disease tend to develop jaundice, which is one of the few reasons why they visit the hospital. “These patients often end up with liver transplant as that is the only cure left. As many fail to understand the importance of liver, they tend to take it for granted, until it burns out completely,” said Dr Santosh Mathew, a hepatologist.

Fatty liver, a new cause of concern:

Fatty liver – an emerging disease of the organ - is being increasingly diagnosed because of ‘sedentary lifestyle’. “As a result of this increased consumption of unhealthy food and the lack of any movement, the risk of fatty liver is high, which again doesn’t cause any symptom until the liver itself burns out completely and the patient develops cirrhosis, leading to end stage liver disease,” said Dr Dinesh Jothimani, senior consultant liver transplant physician, Global Hospital.

Stating that the metabolic syndrome is predominant in persons who are obese and without diabetes, Dr P. Basumani, medical gastroenterologist at Fortis Malar Hospital, said, “In alcoholics, the main cause for fatty liver disease is over consumption of alcohol. Fat deposits lead to the enlargement of liver, inflammation and cirrhosis. If left untreated, the condition can lead to liver failure or necessitate transplantation. The only way to avoid any complication is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. One should increase the intake of proteins, green leaf and vegetables. Not to forget, exercise is most essential to improve the liver’s functioning.”

With the lack of symptoms in liver disease, including in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (primary liver cancer), doctors stress on the need for those with fatty liver or advanced fatty liver or Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) or cirrhosis, to undergo liver cancer screening every six months.

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