Guard Yourself Against Liver Infections
Liver plays multifarious roles in the human body. It aids metabolism, it helps
store and transport crucial elements of life and also helps to detoxify the system by filtering away toxin elements of the blood. Most importantly, it produces bile, an alkaline compound which helps digestion.
Since the liver performs many crucial functions of the body, it is an indispensable organ. A failure hence can often be fatal. Liver failure occurs when a large portion of the liver is damaged beyond repair. Mostly, a failure of the liver occurs over a period of time. However, in certain cases of infection, the failure can be immediate and acute and may need medical help within 48 hours. Hence it is essential that we take preventive steps to avoid any harm to the liver.
“A majority of people are not aware of how they can acquire severe liver infections like hepatitis. It is very important to raise awareness levels and inform people about the sources that lead to such infections and of the need to follow healthy lifestyles. As emphatically as we talk about cardiovascular diseases, we should talk about raising awareness for liver diseases. It is also important to get vaccinated against hepatitis infections,” says Dr Rajnish Monga, Sr Consultant Gastroenterology.
He also states that Hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D and E can cause acute and chronic infection and inflammation of the liver that can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. These viruses constitute a major global health risk with around 240 million people being chronically infected with hepatitis B and around 150 million people chronically infected with hepatitis C.
Highlighting the plight of the epidemic of hepatitis diseases and its co-related secondary diseases, Dr Monga stated that, “Millions of people are living with viral hepatitis and millions more are at risk of becoming infected. Most people with chronic infection with hepatitis B or C are unaware that they continue to carry the virus. They are therefore at high risk of developing severe chronic liver disease and can unknowingly transmit the virus to other people. Approximately one million people die each year from causes related to viral hepatitis, most commonly cirrhosis and liver cancer”.
Both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B are viral infections that can be prevented with vaccines. While Hepatitis A is spread mainly when small amounts of infected fecal matter are somehow ingested in your body with food, Hepatitis B is spread by transfusion of contaminated blood, sharing of needles by drug users, and unprotected sexual contact.
“There are over 100 different forms of liver disease caused factors ranging from viruses and genetics to toxins to poor nutrition. Apart from vaccination, some basic hygiene actions like washing hands thoroughly before cooking food and before eating can prevent against hepatitis A infections. It is also important to spread the message that following safe sexual practices and being careful about needle sharing is important. Today, youngsters are very interested in getting body tattoos, often they do not realize that tattoo ink needles shall not be shared,” says Dr Monga.
He also states that pregnant women a number of times have hepatitis and neither get themselves checked for the same nor do they opt for the treatment. This is a major factor that leads to a high number of neonatal deaths. Hence it is essential that women take care of themselves at the time of pregnancy.
Sometimes, chronic infections like hepatitis can also lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. In cirrhosis, the normal liver cells are replaced by scar tissue that cannot perform any liver function. Hepatitis E is another virus spreads through contaminated food and water.
Fatty liver disease in which fat accumulates within the liver is another liver disorder that can hamper liver function. However, one of the most common cause of preventable liver disease is excess alcohol consumption that destroys liver function.
Dr Monga also states that a number of institutions and organizations now opt for mandatory Hepatitis B vaccinations and ensure that their employees get regular counseling for the same. These are beneficial and are helping in not only creating awareness about the hepatitis diseases but are also generating awareness about its preventive measures.
Some important precautions against liver disease:
•Make it a habit to wash hands thoroughly with soap before cooking or eating food
•If you have to consume alcohol, take in an extremely limited amount
•If you love tattoos make sure needles are not shared
•Prefer to drink reliable packaged water or purified water, avoid drinking water that you are not sure of being safe
•Limit intake of fatty food, stick to low fat diet
•Get vaccinated for Hepatitis