What Should You Know About Liver Disorders?
Liver disorders are very common. Gastroenterologists trained in liver diseases are known as Hepatologists.Symptoms of liver disease include jaundice, vomitting of blood(Hemetemesis), bleeding in the motions(also known as Melena or hematochezia),altered sensorium known as Hepatic encephalopathy(HE), Renal failure also known as Hepatorenal syndrome(HRS), Breathlessness (due to Hepatopulmonary syndrome and portopulmonary hypertension).
Let’s understand the liver disease point by point:
1. Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is a virus which is usually acquired in four ways. Unprotected sexual intercourse with the infected partner, from infected to the child, infected needles, infected blood. It takes many years for the hepatitis B virus to cause liver damage. Once the liver is damaged it is called Cirrhosis or chronic liver disease. When liver is more then 80 percent damage, it causes blood vomiting also known as hematemesis, Ascites(water in the stomach), Jaundice, HE, HRS etc. Treatment depends on virus count which is calculated by HBV DNA PCR and other lab parameters. Once the treatment starts monitoring of viral count is done to document the effectiveness of the treatment. All the family members and sexual partners must get HbsAg screening done to detect early silent infection. All those who test negative, Hepatitis vaccination should be done, by three injections which provide them with 100% protection against the HBV infection.
2. Hepatitis C: Hepatitis C is a virus which is acquired by injection drug abuse and infected needles and blood. Transmission by unprotected sexual intercourse is possible but chances are very low. Hepatitis C virus damages the liver slowly and takes years before clinical symptoms of liver failure appear. Once the liver is damaged it is called Cirrhosis or chronic liver disease. When the liver is more than 80 percent damage, it causes blood vomiting also known as hematemesis, Ascites(water in the stomach), Jaundice, HE, HRS etc. All hepatitis C virus infected patients must be treated irrespective of virus count. Baseline virus count by HCV RNA is done to measure the effectiveness of the treatment. HCV Genotype is done for patients with cirrhosis. Vaccination is not available for hepatitis C but newer medicines(Direct acting antivirals DAA) for Hepatitis C can cure it with more than 95% certainty.
3. Acute viral Hepatitis: Sudden infection in the liver can be due to multiple causes but commonly is due to Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E, which are caused due to eating or drinking contaminated food and water. Rarely Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can cause Acute hepatitis including Acute liver failure. Acute hepatitis presents with Jaundice, loss of appetite, generalised fatigue, vomiting and abdominal pain. Patients are usually treated on an outpatient basis but if they have severe vomiting, abdominal pain or altered sensorium, they are admitted for inpatient care and monitoring. Drugs or complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) such as herbal or bodybuilding protein supplements which contain steroids and heavy metals can cause acute hepatitis.
4. Liver transplant: Removing the damaged liver and to put a new liver in the patients is called Liver transplant. Liver transplant is major surgery and costs around 20 to 30 Lacs. Indications of liver transplant are an acute liver failure due to hepatitis viruses such as hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis E, decompensated cirrhosis due to any cause including chronic hepatitis B and C, Drug-induced liver failure such antitubercular drugs(ATT). The donor for liver transplant is either a close relative (Living donor liver transplant LDLT) or a brain dead donor (deceased donor liver transplant DDLT).
5. Chronic liver disease or Cirrhosis: It is the end result of slow damage to the liver, where many liver cells are damaged and replaced by fibrosis. Apart from viruses such as Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, Alcohol is one of the most common causes of cirrhosis.
Drinking alcohol for years together causes irreversible liver damage causing cirrhosis. Alcohol can cause acute severe hepatitis, acute liver failure and chronic liver disease. Patients with suspected heavy alcohol drink must-visit Hepatologist (Liver doctor ) for proper diagnosis of stage of liver damage and deaddiction programme. USG Abdomen, blood tests, endoscopy and Fibroscan is usually done to know the liver health.
Fatty liver is also known as non-alcohol fatty liver disease(NAFLD) is a lifestyle disorder due to lack of exercise, high fat diet, obesity and due to drugs. Fatty liver causes silent liver damage and if not recognised in time can cause irreversible liver damage and cirrhosis. The evaluation includes Liver function tests, Ultrasound abdomen, Fibroscan. Treatment includes daily moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, drinking coffee and a low-fat diet. Few medicines are available which help in the reversal of fatty liver.