The Liver is an important organ of the digestive system, located below the diaphragm on the right side of the abdomen. It performs many crucial bodily functions, including blood purification, production of bile which helps in the process of digestion, processing of nutrients and producing proteins which aid in blood-clot etc. It is important that we know the ways and means by which we can ensure that our liver is healthy and functioning properly.
We need to be aware of the common liver disorders and their preventive and curative measures. Fortis Hospital is one of the leading liver treatment hospitals in India equipped with the latest facilities and qualified staff who are proficient in treating all types of liver disorders. Let us take the example of a very common disorder affecting the liver, known as Fatty Liver disease.
What is Fatty Liver Disease?
Fatty Liver disease, or non-alcoholic liver disease, is a condition which is extremely common in India due to the prevalence of diabetes and an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle. If the population of patients getting admitted to a particular hospital is closely examined, the incidence of a fatty liver disease is almost 40%. In the case of diabetics who are on long-term medication and a host of other reasons, the incidence rate is close to 70% to 80%. In the years to come, fatty liver disease and liver failure are predicted to be the leading causes of liver problems and related complications in our country.
Fatty liver can be described as an inflammation or deposition of fat in the liver. There are no evident symptoms of fatty liver, so having a fatty liver alone will not produce any symptoms or signs that can be diagnosed. Therefore, it is usually diagnosed during a routine health check-up or during an ultrasound scan for other complications.
Patients suffering from diabetes, high cholesterol, thyroid disorders etc. are at a higher risk of having a fatty liver. There are two categories of this disease: Alcoholic fatty liver disease, also known as Alcoholic Steatohepatitis and Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
What are the risk factors associated with it?
It is a common misconception that only people who are obese are at a risk of getting this disease. But actually, it is the fat distribution that matters and not the thinness of a person. In cases of lean fatty liver, even lean people who have a paunch or visceral fat are predisposed towards this disease.
Fatty liver is directly related to long-term diabetes, obesity, overweight (where Body Mass Index, or BMI, exceeds 25), sedentary lifestyle with little or no exercise, hyperthyroidism and other metabolic syndromes such as insulin resistance etc. Some of the common methods of diagnosing the fatty liver are ultra-scan, Fibroscan and Liver Biopsy.
If a person is obese and/or overweight, i.e. BMI is greater than 25; an ultra-scan can be carried out, followed by a liver function test. The elevated enzymes of the liver, for example, Alanine transaminase (ALT), Aspartate transaminase (AST) etc., will indicate the liver disorder. Fibroscan is a test where the doctor’s test for the stiffness of the liver, check for any signs of inflammation and assess the risk of liver cirrhosis.
In Liver Biopsy, the extent of liver damage is ascertained by collecting a tissue sample from the liver using a small needle. This sample is then carefully analyzed in a laboratory to diagnose many disorders of the liver. It is usually performed in case of a serious liver inflammation.
What are the treatment measures for this condition?
Fortis Hospital is reputed to be the best liver disease treatment hospital in India. However, currently, there are no medications which can cure fatty liver disease. Some preventive measures which can ameliorate the crisis involve a change in lifestyle. The body weight must be maintained in proportion to the height. Regular exercising, following a healthy diet and avoiding alcohol are some of the main ways by which this disease can be prevented.
A high-protein diet and a good waist-to-hip ratio should be maintained. The key is to convert the fat into muscle, even if it is not accompanied by a reduction in weight. The underlying causes of diabetes, high cholesterol and thyroid levels must be addressed to mitigate the damage caused to the liver. It is important to consume foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins, such as colourful fruits and vegetables etc.
A person should consume a lesser amount of carbohydrates and fats, and more proteins such as fish etc. Fried and processed foods must be avoided at all costs. Basically, the body must be sensitized to the insulin levels in the blood by taking drugs (insulin sensitizers). Of late, there has been some research going on to determine the role of the gut bacteria in curing this disease. More studies need to be carried out for any conclusive evidence to emerge.
A common query among people is whether a person affected with a fatty liver disease can donate blood or organs. Doctors opine that such a person can donate blood, and all the organs with the exception of liver, due to the accumulation of fat and is usually too damaged to be of any help to the recipient. Smoking has a debilitating effect on almost all the organs of the body and should, therefore, be avoided. Fatty liver of pregnancy is an entirely different matter and must be thoroughly examined for the acute fatty liver of pregnancy.
An important takeaway to be pondered upon is that humans are designed to engage in hard labour involving extensive use of muscles, and not for a sedentary, executive-like lifestyle. Therefore, one should remain active and follow healthy habits to effectively prevent and combat this disease. In case of any complications, it is recommended to consult expert hepatologists and liver care specialists at the best liver care centre in Bangalore, Fortis Hospitals, for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.