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Why it is important to keep your liver healthy

IANS Apr 19, 2024

It is important to keep your liver healthy for the better functioning of the body as symptoms often remain hidden until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage, requiring surgery or transplantation, with the unfortunate potential for fatal outcomes, said doctors.

World Liver Day is observed every year on April 19 to raise awareness about the diseases related to the liver.

A concerning trend in recent years is the rise of fatty liver disease, which is increasingly affecting individuals as young as early teenagers. According to health experts, sedentary lifestyles, coupled with the consumption of unhealthy, and fatty junk food, have contributed to this alarming phenomenon.

"Liver diseases can stem from various factors, including the consumption of unclean or contaminated food, excessive alcohol intake, and unsafe medical practices such as the use of unsterile needles in injections, hospitals, and blood transfusions. Regular liver function tests are essential to monitor the health of the liver and detect any abnormalities early on," said Dr. Naveen Ganjoo, a Consultant Hepatologist, at Aster RV Hospital.

Data from the World Health Organisation shows liver disease ranks as the tenth most common cause of death in India. While early detection and intervention are paramount in combating liver diseases, often the symptoms remain hidden, leading to worse outcomes.

Dr Monika Jain, Chief of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute said that jaundice, characterised by a yellowish discoloration of the eyes and skin, serves as a prominent indicator of liver dysfunction.

"Additionally, patients may experience itchy skin, abdominal swelling resembling fluid accumulation in the stomach, and swelling of the feet, all indicative of underlying liver issues. Anorexia, or loss of appetite, further underscores the physiological repercussions of fatty liver disease, emphasising the need for comprehensive screening and preventive measures to mitigate its progression."

Other signs and symptoms of acute liver failure include pain in the upper right abdomen, often a sign of liver inflammation or enlargement. Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms, accompanied by a general sense of feeling unwell, known as malaise, the doctor said. Further, liver disease also plays a role in infertility and bone health.

"Being an immunocompromised state, the doses of medications for liver disease have to be decreased and all the medicines are also not safe to be continued during pregnancy. Patients who have prolonged liver diseases might have problems while they try to get pregnant also," said Dr Meenakshi Ahuja, Senior Director of obstetrics and Gynaecology in Fortis La Femme.

Dr Ahuja added that in vitro fertilisation (IVF) could be an option in such cases. Bone diseases in chronic liver disease (CLD) patients have also emerged as a serious concern. Various factors such as nutrition, hormones, and genetics contribute, and inflammation remains a persistent trigger for bone diseases in CLD patients.

"There is an intricate interplay between chronic liver disease (CLD) and metabolic bone complications. 'Hepatic osteodystrophy' encompassing osteomalacia and osteoporosis, is found in advanced liver disease, leading to heightened bone fragility and reduced mass. Osteoporosis, reminiscent of senile osteoporosis, emerges from an imbalance in bone formation and resorption, notably observed in liver cirrhosis and cholestatic liver diseases, posing a critical concern for liver transplant recipients," said Dr Deep Kamal Soni, Consultant, Gastroenterology at Indian Spinal Injuries Centre.

Preventive measures and lifestyle modifications like adopting a balanced and nutritious diet, engaging in regular exercise, and screening for Hepatitis B and C, can be key to maintaining liver health, said the doctors.

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