World Liver Day: Experts caution against growing burden of liver disorders in India

Experts at Sarvodaya Hospital, Faridabad, have also urged all adults to get themselves vaccinated against the hepatitis B virus for which there is no cure, but prevention is easy

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New Delhi: As per Dr. Bhaskar Nandi, HOD – Liver & Digestive Sciences, Sarvodaya Hospital, Faridabad: “A few decades back, the most common cause of chronic liver disease in India was hepatitis B infection, leading to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure. However, fatty liver, a metabolic disorder, now constitutes the largest burden of liver disease today due to changing lifestyle of people. Fatty liver is a warning sign that you have other components of liver disease which may mature and turn into something much more serious.”
“In our experience, as many as 80% of people coming for an ultrasound checkup today are found to have fatty liver disease. About one-third of these will progress to chronic liver disease, liver cancer, cirrhosis, or end-stage liver disease. But it is difficult to predict which ones of the 80% will fall in that one-third bracket, so everyone with fatty liver is at risk. Preventive measures should be taken early, including lifestyle restrictions, avoiding alcohol and periodic check-ups,” he added.
Liver disease has become a lifestyle disease in India, with the incidence of non-alcoholic and alcoholic fatty liver disease now much higher than hepatitis B virus as the main cause of liver disorders. The reason is lifestyle changes over the last three decades, involving obesity, sedentary lifestyle, food rich in sugar, calories and fat, and alcohol.
Experts of Sarvodaya Hospital, Faridabad, have also urged all adults to get themselves vaccinated against the hepatitis B virus for which there is no cure, but prevention is easy. The hepatitis B vaccine, costing less than Rs 200, needs to be taken only once for life-long immunity against the virus which can cause deadly infection and inflammation of the liver, leading to irreversible liver damage and death.
According to Nandi, every year, more than 115,000 people die in India due to hepatitis B related complications.
“About 4 crore people in the country are carriers of this virus but remain asymptomatic and unaware of the risk they pose to others. While hepatitis B vaccination is commonly given to children for immunization, it is not popular among adults. Due to lack of awareness, most people do not get the vaccine, even though it needs to be taken only once for lifetime protection against the virus. So many needless deaths can be saved every year by simply spending a minute at a hospital to take the low-cost vaccine. People should understand that there is no cure for hepatitis B infection. It can only be prevented,” Nandi informed.
He added: “Unlike in the West where main causes of transmission of hepatitis B virus include infected needles and sexual contact, in India, the spread is due to horizontal transmission by staying in proximity with an infected individual, like a family member who is asymptomatic. The majority cases of hepatitis B infection in India happen due to close contact. With crores of people carrying the virus within themselves, everybody is at risk.”