HYDERABAD: The new silent killer - fatty liver is afflicting a third of our population says Dr Naveen Polavarapu, consultant - medical gastroenterologist and transplant hepatologist, Apollo Hospitals.
Fatty liver is now recognised as a major public health burden especially with growing obesity, more so with childhood obesity. Estimates suggests that around 30 per cent of general population suffer with fatty liver, that is approximately one in three people. By 2020 it is expected that fatty liver related cirrhosis will the most common cause for liver transplantation.
Elaborating further, Dr Naveen Polavarapu said Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is caused due to excess fat deposition in the liver cells. Excess fat deposition can lead to permanent serious damage as in case of damage by alcohol consumption.
Delivering a lecture on ‘Fatty Liver - A New Silent Killer’ to a discerning audience comprising of morning walkers, general public and members of Public Garden Walkers’ Association (PGWA), he says, “Liver is the big chemical factory of the body and does lot of work. It stores fuel for the body, makes proteins that help in clotting blood, helps removing alcohol and other toxins from the body and produces bile to help in digesting the food.”
According to the gastroenterologist, the diseas has no symptoms and often gets diagnosed on routine abdomen scan (ultrasound) or blood test. “Often until nearly 80 per cent of the liver is damaged there are no symptoms and by then it is too late. People with fatty liver occasionally have some nagging pain in the right part of the tummy. Some people may feel generally tired too,” he adds.
While there is no simple test to confirm fatty liver, blood test for liver function, scans like ultrasound, CT scan, MRI or even liver biopsy (tissue sample) may also be needed based on the severity of the disease.
“There are no magic treatments or pills to treat fatty liver. Eating healthily, gradual weight loss and regular exercise are the treatments which have shown greater impact on reducing the risks of fatty liver,” says Dr Naveen.
Key to the treatment is strictly controlling the risk factors like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol etc. More than the liver damage these patients are at greater risk of cardiovascular diseases. Prevention is better than cure and fatty liver is again something in our hands that can be easily be prevented by having a healthy lifestyle.
Obesity, particularly those with fat around tummy (central obesity) with BMI (>25), waist circumference of (>90cm) for men and (>80cm) for women, are at greater risk of developing fatty liver. It is estimated that around 75% of obese patients are at risk of developing serious fatty liver related diseases.
Diabetes mellitus, especially type 2 is a great risk factor for fatty liver. India has a high Diabetic population and also the tendency to have central obesity, therefore India has the highest risk population to develop fatty liver.
High blood pressure.
High cholesterol and triglycerides.
Age above 50 years, especially men are at a greater risk.