Liver Disease Awareness: Vital Facts To Know About Liver Disease
Our liver is one of the most crucial body parts that perform more than 500 essential functions in the body. It is an organ that can repair and regenerate itself. When we have such a vital organ, it is also necessary to have proper liver disease awareness.
The liver is the second largest part in our body. It performs several essential functions ranging from digestion, metabolism and immune function. Due to its versatility, it is more important to maintain a healthy liver to avoid health complications. Before going in depth about this topic, let's find out what our liver does that makes it versatile.
It is quite well-known that the liver helps in digestion by breaking down various particles like food, medications and alcohol. It is also important to know that it helps reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels and remove toxins from the body.
The 19th of April is a reminder that we all need to protect our liver health. The National Health Portal of India celebrates World Liver Day to spread awareness on liver disease and maintain good liver health.
Are Liver Diseases Common In India?
Absolutely. Chronic liver disease is one of the most common causes of disease and death in today's world. Hepatitis infections, liver disease, and non-alcoholic liver disease are the major contributors to chronic liver disease. Viral hepatitis is still a very common death in pregnant women.
Due to inadequate access to resources, lack of liver disease awareness, healthcare facilities and health care providers, many people depend on unproven traditional medicines and herbal supplements to seek temporary relief for their ailments without professional help.
Your body does not show immediate symptoms like nausea, vomiting etc., unless your liver is severely damaged. This is why awareness of liver disorders is important. Lack of proper liver disease awareness is the major reason that certain liver diseases are more common in our country than others.
What Are The Five Stages Of Liver Disease?
Now, to understand and to get aware about liver diseases, read further about how liver disease progresses.
- Hepatitis or fatty liver: Hepatitis or fatty liver is the stage where inflammation and enlargement of the liver occurs. This is usually the first stage of liver problems. Inflammation is a sign that indicates your body is fighting an infection while trying to heal an injury. In this stage, many people do not experience any symptoms. Some of the most prominent symptoms include tiredness and stomach discomfort.
- Hepatic Fibrosis: Fibrosis is the stage where scar forms in the liver tissues. These scar tissues develop and begin to replace healthy liver tissues. Over time these scar tissues obstruct the blood flow to the liver and disturb liver function.
- Cirrhosis: Cirrhosis is the stage where the scars of liver tissues have become severe to the point where the liver may not be able to function properly. Liver biopsy helps to check the extent of liver damage. Symptoms of liver cirrhosis include tiredness, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach pain, severe itching etc.
- Liver failure and liver cancer: When the unhealthy cells begin to grow and develop in the liver, it leads to liver cancer. Liver cancer is often a consequence of liver cirrhosis, and Hepatitis B. Liver failure occurs when the liver has lost its ability to perform its function.
How Do I Know If I Am At Risk?
There are several potential causes of liver diseases. However certain factors accelerate the risk of liver disease, they are:
- Viruses: When a virus contacts the liver, it results in inflammation, infection and swelling, a condition known as Viral hepatitis. Hepatitis B and C viruses are more likely to cause permanent liver damage. They are easily transmitted through sharing personal products like toothbrushes, razors and needles.
- Poor diet: A diet devoid of a healthy composition of fibre, fats, fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains can easily make one prone to liver disorders.
- Obesity: Obesity and being overweight are some of the common causes of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Excessive alcohol consumption: This is a well-known fact. Several studies have been conducted earlier, which reported that alcohol is the commonest cause of the chronic liver disorder. Alcohol can damage your liver cells and produce scars in your liver tissues.
- Medications and toxic chemicals: Taking medications like steroids, methotrexate, blood pressure medications, herbal supplements over a long period can cause significant liver damage.
- Autoimmune disorders: Presence of an autoimmune condition where your immune system attacks its own cells leads to long term damage. Autoimmune hepatitis is one such condition that leads to liver cirrhosis and failure if not treated at the right time.
- Genetics: Several gene changes are responsible for causing iron overload (hemochromatosis), copper overload (Wilson's disease), cystic fibrosis and other genetic liver conditions that later lead to liver failure.
Warning Signs Of Liver Damage:
Indeed, liver disease does not show any symptoms until the damage is severe. Though many people with liver damage appear 'healthy', here are some warning signs that indicate possible liver damage:
- Pain in the right upper side of the stomach
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
What Should You Do If You Are Diagnosed With Liver Damage?
So you have been diagnosed with liver disease. What next? You need to improve your liver disease awareness by discussing with your physician and knowing the stage of your liver damage. If your liver is in the initial stages of Fibrosis, early treatment may help your liver regenerate itself. On the other hand, If your liver damage is in the advanced fibrosis stage or cirrhosis stage, your health care team will monitor you for liver cancer.
A liver biopsy helps to determine whether the liver cells are cancerous. If a healthcare provider confirms the diagnosis of liver cancer, the treatment approach depends on the overall health of the liver, the patient's age and the severity of the tumour.
If your liver has reached the stage of cirrhosis or cancer, the aim of treatment is to reduce further damage to prevent complications. In such advanced cases, your physician or Health Care team might suggest you undergo liver transplant surgery.
Let Your Liver Live:
Maintain a healthy diet by consuming foods rich in proteins, fats and fibres. Pay attention to your body weight as being overweight and obesity leads to serious liver problems. Make sure to exercise every day.
Contaminated food, water, and drug abuse can lead to liver cancer and cirrhosis problems. Ensure that you always maintain personal hygiene, during blood transfusion, intercourse, and using washrooms.
Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption. Do not take any medicines or herbal supplements without consulting your physician. Seek help from your healthcare practitioner if you have problems quitting smoking or alcohol consumption.
While using certain substances like insecticides, chemicals, aerosol products etc., for cleaning, ensure to have a mask and the room is ventilated enough.