Any amount of alcohol on a daily basis for several years together does affect the liver. Having just one drink a day is relatively safer but does not rule out the possibility of liver damage in the long run.
Q:Is Liver Damage caused only due to excessive alcohol consumption?
Dr:This is a misconception. Excessive alcohol consumption is definitely one of the main causes for scarring of the liver that can ultimately lead to liver failure even. But alcohol is not the only cause for liver disease. Other factors that affect liver health include diet, medication, obesity, and other conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
Q:What is Fatty Liver Disease?
Dr:When excess fat builds up in the liver, it is called Fatty Liver disease. It progresses through four stages. Stage one is the onset of Fat deposits in the liver. Stage two is when the liver gets inflamed. In stage three the inflammation causes scarring. In the final and most severe stage, the scarring is widespread and liver health is considerably affected. Liver function begins to deteriorate. In the first three stages of fatty liver disease, damage caused is reversible through healthy lifestyle choices. However, in the final stage – Cirrhosis Liver – the damage is irreversible and must be treated as an emergency.
Q:Is it true that the Liver can regenerate when it gets damaged?
Dr:Yes, this is true. The liver can grow back if it is damaged or part of it is removed. It just needs 25% of its tissue in order to grow back to its full size. This is the reason why in the first three stages of fatty liver disease there is hope for reversal of the damage. In fact, the fact that the liver can regrow is the reason why people can donate part of their liver for those in need of a liver transplant.
Q:What are the symptoms of liver disease?
Dr:In its initial stages, the symptoms are too non-specific (fatigue, itchiness) to catch our attention. However, as the disease progresses there are some tell-tale signs – jaundice or yellowish eyes/ skin, fluid retention in the belly area, bleeding from the GI tract, dark urine, or very light-coloured stools.
Q:How much alcohol can a person have and still not develop liver disease?
Dr:There is no safe quantity. Any amount of alcohol on a daily basis for several years together does affect the liver. Having just one drink a day is relatively safer but does not rule out the possibility of liver damage in the long run. However, for those who develop Alcoholic Liver disease, if the condition is diagnosed before cirrhosis occurs, discontinuing alcohol consumption will reverse the condition. Those with pre-existing conditions such as Hepatitis B or C, must not drink at all – their liver is sensitive to any amount of alcohol. There is no way to predict who will develop liver disease and who will reach end stage liver disease. However, making healthy choices can keep you safe.
Q:What is Hepatitis?
Dr:Hepatitis is an umbrella term referring to the inflammation of the liver which can be caused by drugs, alcohol, inherited disease, metabolic diseases, exposure to certain toxins and viruses. However, in common usage Hepatitis refers to viral hepatitis caused by hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D, E and G. The most common types being Hepatitis A, B and E.
Q:Is there a vaccination against Viral Hepatitis?
Dr:Vaccines against Hepatitis B are now mandatory to all infants. Adults who have not taken the vaccine can check with their health care provider on recommended doses. By this way Hepatitis B can be completely eradicated. There is a vaccine against Hepatitis A and those travelling to regions where Hepatitis A is known to be found, must take the vaccine. There is no vaccine against Hepatitis C, but it can be treated successfully. Transmission of the disease happens upon exposure to blood or bodily fluids of individuals positive with Hepatitis C.
Q:Is there a chance that a Hepatitis C infection will go away on its own?
Dr:It is possible. However, this occurs only in less than half people and there is no way to predict who those people will be. Hence, if you are diagnosed with Hepatitis C, your best bet is to get treatment. Without timely treatment, it leads to chronic Hepatitis C that can lead to liver failure, liver damage, cirrhosis and even liver cancer.
Q:How is Hepatitis C transmitted from one person to another?
Dr:By exposure to blood or exchange of bodily fluids. This means that it is sexually transmitted as well. Sharing needles with an infected individual also leads to infection – this refers to both sharing drug-injection equipment and even getting tattoos and body piercings. Also, infants born to mothers with Hepatitis C are at elevated risk. However, there is no reason to isolate those with Hepatitis C and deny them employment. Depending on the kind of work involved, precautions need to be taken.
Q:Can a liver detox or liver cleanse restore liver health?
Dr:There is no scientific evidence that health juices or other such concoctions can prevent or reverse liver damage. If you have conditions such as liver disease, kidney issues, diabetes, or hepatitis, and are yet to be diagnosed, some detox programs use ingredients that can harm you further. Before taking any sort of a supplement, it is best to consult with your doctor.
CONSULTANT – GASTROENTEROLOGIST
MBBS.,MD.,DM Medical Gastroenterologist