At least one in every 10 Indians suffers from a liver disease. Twenty percent of about 10 crore such people are diagnosed with liver cirrhosis and face the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma or liver cancer.
The major causes of a deteriorating liver are viral infections, namely Hepatitis B and C, deposition of excess fat and alcoholism.
Doctors warn that seemingly healthy people can harbour Hepatitis B or C virus in the body for as long as 10-15 years before the liver starts showing symptoms of degeneration.
Vaccination against the virus is, therefore, a must. “Three shots of vaccines taken over a span of six months provide a person immunity against contracting Hepatitis B. However, Hepatitis C has to be prevented by avoiding unsafe blood transfusion and infection through bodily fluids,” advises Dr Hemant Thacker, a cardio-metabolic specialist at Breach Candy Hospital.
Doctors say a patient should look out for stark symptoms of end-stage liver disease, including the yellowing of skin due to jaundice, accumulation of water in the abdomen and vomiting of blood. “Liver is a non-complaining organ. It is too late to track liver problems unless preventive health checkups are done,” says Dr Chetan Kantharia, in-charge, liver transplant programme at KEM Hospital in Parel.
Only 10-15% of liver cirrhosis patients who develop end-stage liver disease need organ transplants. According to the doctors fatalities from such diseases can be averted by taking precautionary measures.