On world hepatitis day today, here are some facts about liver, causes of hepatitis, symptoms, diagnosis and prevention of the disease complications.
According to WHO, Liver cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the World currently and a person is dying every 30seconds from hepatitis related illness. The risk of Liver cancer increases by at least 100 times if you have viral Hepatitis. It is estimated that over 2 billion population throughout the world are infected with viral Hepatitis and it is at least 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV infections yet the Viral Hepatitis sadly gets less importance compared to other infections.
World Hepatitis Day takes place every year on 28th July to bring the world together under a single theme to raise awareness of the global burden of hepatitis especially with more focus on viral hepatitis and to influence real change.
What is Liver and what does it do?
Liver is the largest organ in the human body which performs more than 500 vital functions. All the food that we eat including carbohydrates, fats, minerals gets metabolised in the Liver after getting absorbed from the intestines. It produces important proteins which help in clotting of the blood. Liver along with kidneys work like a filter removing all the toxins and acids from the body. It also plays a crucial role in maintaining adequate sugar levels in the body and also acts like a storage organ.
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver which if unchecked will lead to significant permanent damage to the Liver and life risk. The most common causes of Liver damage are Viral Hepatitis (mainly B,C), fatty Liver and alcohol. Along with these there are more than 100 different causes of Liver damage which will lead to Cirrhosis (end stage Liver disease).
Why is it important to know about Viral Hepatitis?
Hepatitis B directly has been causing 10 lakh deaths every year for the last few decades. It is estimated that around 200 crores population is currently or previously infected with Hepatitis B and around 35 crore population is currently infected and carrying this Hepatitis B virus.
Around 75% of these infected people are in Asia and Africa. People with Hepatitis B have 100 times more risk of developing Liver cancer compared to people who do not have Hepatitis.
Similarly Hepatitis C is estimated to be present in 18 crore populations worldwide and most often cause long-term significant damage to the Liver leading to irreversible cirrhosis and Liver cancer. In fact 2 out of 3 Liver cancer deaths are related to Viral Hepatitis.
What are the symptoms and signs of hepatitis?
Liver is such a brilliant organ that it copes until it is at least more than 80% damaged and by the time symptoms appear it is often too late, hence Liver is like a silent killer.
9 out of 10 people don’t even know that they have the virus and often it gets picked up whilst doing routine testing for other reasons.
Common symptoms they present with are Jaundice, tummy swelling, leg swelling, blood vomiting or black stools, confusion and drowsiness. These symptoms appear only when the Liver is significantly damaged.
How can I get checked if I have the virus?
Detection of these viruses is with a simple blood test, which is widely available. Once these viruses are detected then the Liver specialist will evaluate the stage of the virus and also the amount of the damage that has happened to the Liver. Based on these we can offer further treatment.
Are there any treatments available?
If recognised early, Hepatitis is treatable and sometimes curable too. We can arrest the progression to cirrhosis by early recognition of these viruses and early commencement of the medications.
There are excellent medications available now to completely cure the Hepatitis C. You just need to take one tablet a day for generally 3 months with almost 99% chance of completely curing the virus therefore eradicating the risk of future Cirrhosis and Liver cancer.
For Hepatitis B also there are excellent medications to control the virus. Of course there are excellent vaccinations available for Hepatitis B and A.
We at Apollo Hospitals have been running dedicated Liver clinics specifically designed to treat and cure these deadly viruses. We have the state of the art equipment and expertise to identify and treat these viruses with excellent cure rates.
In patients who have developed advanced Liver disease, we have been treating them with excellent outcomes and in patients who need Liver transplant as the only mode of survival, we have been doing them at our centre successfully for nearly 10 years.
The theme of World Hepatitis Day 2022 is “I can’t wait” to raise the awareness among masses. It is strongly recommended that all of us get checked for these deadly silent killing viruses and if negative then let us get vaccinated.
In fact WHO goal is to make the HEPATITIS FREE WORLD BY 2030 and it is achievable by all of us doing our part in coming forward, getting checked and treated if positive or vaccinated if negative. And we all know that prevention is better than cure.