On the occasion of World Liver Day, which is observed on April 19 every year, one should be aware about liver related diseases and what needs to be done to do away with liver related diseases.
It is important to understand a bit about this important organ in our body. Followed by the brain, the liver is the second largest solid organ in the human body and performs a long list of complex functions to keep the body hale and hearty. The liver performs many tasks which are important for optimum functioning of other important organs in the body. It plays a key role in digestion. Besides preparing and releasing bile – required for breaking down fat present in the food – the liver also regulates blood sugar, removes toxins from the body and manages the cholesterol level. The liver generates clotting factors, albumin and several other important products.
The liver is an uncomplaining worker and often does not show any significant signs of damage. But at the same time, more than a 100 disorders can affect the liver.
The symptoms of damage vary from yellowing of the white of the eyes, yellow urine, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.
It is important to understand the complications, such as bleeding, swelling of the abdomen, swelling of the feet weight loss, and the clouding of thinking that develops with profession.
Here are a few tips to prevent and manage liver disorders:
- Hepatitis B vaccinationshould be given immediately after birth to every baby.
- Blood and blood products should be used only after screening for Hepatitis B and Hepatitis Cby sophisticated tests that can pick up early infection.
- Consumption of only clean wateris must and for this one must always be vigilant.
- Appropriate washing of raw vegetables and fruit.
- Use of Hepatitis A vaccination when possible.
- Jaundice in newborn babies beyond the age of two weeks needs to be investigated so that a liver disorder can be diagnosed and treated appropriately by specialists. Most babies develop jaundice after birth but it clears in 10 days.
- Several liver disorders if managed appropriately early have excellent outcomes thereby preventing development of complications and need for transplantation.
- Nutrition plays a key role in the management of liver disorders and requires expert dietetic advice.
Treatment for Hepatitis B, C, and several inherited disorders has evolved in recent times and all treatment options are available in India. Liver transplantation is well established in India. Sanjay, the first child in India to have received a liver transplant in India at Apollo hospital Delhi in 1998 at the age of 18 months, is now a medical student leading a normal life 19 years later. The success of liver transplantation is at par with centres in the West with excellent quality of life.
(Disclaimer: The writer is Dr Anupam Sibal, Group Medical Director, Apollo Hospitals Group, senior consultant – Paediatric Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, Apollo Hospital, Delhi. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)