With the former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Vilasrao Dekhmukh, passing away from Liver Cirrhosis, many people have questions in their minds – What damages the liver? Can liver damaging diseases be inherited or are they acquired by an irresponsible lifestyle? What are the most common liver diseases and how serious are they? Let us try and find some answers through this article.
The liver can be affected by a huge range of diseases; some are inherited while others are a response to the drugs and chemicals the liver has been subjected to over the years. Since the liver metabolizes all the food you intake, it is most susceptible to the affect of excessive drinking, smoking, overuse of drugs or even eating too much fat in your diet. Once you have been diagnosed with liver damage, you can reverse the conditions with a healthy diet and lifestyle, depending on the percentage of damage caused to the liver.
Let us discuss today 3 common yet serious liver damaging diseases:
- Fatty Liver Disease –
Can be caused by a sedentary lifestyle complimented with a poor diet rich in trans-fat and is probably the most common liver disease. Fat layers build up in the liver, and when the liver is not able to break them down, these layers cause inflammation and abnormal liver functioning. If not treated, it can lead to liver cirrhosis.
To prevent Fatty Liver, keep your diet low in fats, especially hydrogenated fats. Losing weight and exercising regularly can help reduce symptoms of fatty liver. If you already have high cholesterol, blood pressure or diabetes, be extra cautious with diet and ensure you don’t eat unsaturated fats at all.
- Liver Hepatitis –
Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver and can be caused by 5 different viruses – A, B, C, D and E. All 5 have similar symptoms and the difference lies in the way they affect the liver or the method with which they are transmitted. While some of these viruses, like the B and D are sexually transmitted or transmitted through infected blood or bodily fluids, others like A and E are caused by consuming infecting food or water. Hepatitis C is spread by coming in direct contact with the blood of an infected person.
While Hepatitis A and E are not serious and have no long term consequences, B, C and D are potentially dangerous and can cause cancer, cirrhosis and other abnormalities of the liver.
- Liver Cirrhosis –
A rare disease that can be caused by both fatty liver disease and hepatitis if the right treatment is not available timely; the maximum number of cases seen with liver cirrhosis are struggling alcoholics.
If you are wondering how much alcohol it would take to bring the liver to the point of cirrhosis, a rough estimate would be 500ml whiskey every day for 10 years. Cirrhosis causes the fibrous tissue of the liver to scar and decreases its function, which can cause jaundice and cancer.
You can arrest liver cirrhosis by stopping alcohol intake, but cure is not easy to come by and the damage done stays forever. In other words, if you drink like a fish and reach the point of cirrhosis, you can prevent further damage by never touching a single drop of alcohol (even a small quantity of alcohol is fatal for patients with cirrhosis) but you cannot undo the damage already done.
Prevention is the only option for patients of liver cirrhosis. Famous comedian W. C. Fields joked, “It is easy to give up drinking; I have done it a thousand times!” But then he died at just 66 years of age, and unless you also want to cut your life short because you love the bottle too much, it is time to make some serious changes.
Image credit: http://www.sanger.ac.uk/about/press/2011/110313.html.