BY ROHAN BADAVE
Fatty liver disease is one of the most silent diseases in modern history, affecting approximately 25-30% of the adult population in Goa. In western India, it is the most common cause of cirrhosis.
Fatty liver disease occurs when more than 5% of the liver cells are fat-loaded. Alcohol is the most common cause, while the other group is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Diabetes, obesity, medication, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, Wilson's disease, parenteral nutrition, Celiac disease and many more factors can contribute to fatty liver disease.
Fatty liver affects around 90% of alcoholics, 70% of diabetics and 80% of obese persons. The most common cause of cirrhosis in Goa is alcohol, followed by NASH-related cirrhosis.
In its early stages, fatty liver disease is silent. Patients will not experience any symptoms. Steatohepatitis develops as the condition worsens, causing inflammation in the liver. At this stage, the patient experiences minor stomach pain, anorexia and weakness.
As the disease progresses, the liver stiffens, eventually leading to cirrhosis. The important distinction is that fatty liver is reversible, whereas cirrhosis is permanent.
Cirrhosis can cause symptoms such as yellowish discoloration of the eyes, blood vomiting and fluid accumulation in the belly. Fatty liver disease also raises the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
TREATING LIVER DISEASE
Because individuals are asymptomatic in the early stages of fatty liver disease, it is usually identified inadvertently during a routine examination.
All of a patient's requirements, such as blood tests, will be performed for further examination. A particular liver scan, called a FibroScan, is used to stage fatty liver disease. Patients with significant risk factors for illness development (age > 45 years, diabetes, male, obese) require a more thorough examination.
Patients in the early stages require lifestyle changes, but those in the advanced stages require medication. The only curative treatment for liver cirrhosis is a liver transplant.
PREVENTING FATTY LIVER DISEASE
1. Dietary changes: Avoid foods high in fat and complex carbs. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Drink 1.5 to 2 litres of water everyday.
2. Exercise: 45 minutes of aerobic or anaerobic exercise per day.
3. Right ratio: Maintaining a weight-to-height ratio. (height in cm - 100 = approx suitable weight).
4. Tight control: In diabetics, a certain amount of sugar is required.
5. Avoid drinking, smoking and drug use.
6. Vaccination: Getting vaccinated against Hepatitis B
7. OTC meds: Avoid taking unnecessary over-the-counter medication.
8. Don't share: Avoid sharing razors, tooth brushes and needles.
(The author is a consultant gastroenterologist at Manipal Hospitals, Dona Paula Goa).