Liver disease can result from several factors grouped as genetic (inherited) and environmental. Each of these factors can cause damage to the liver on their own or in combination. If damage to the liver is not brought under control through medical treatment, this may continue and a prolonged, sustained injury to the liver will lead to its scarring. With time liver failure may occur, and a liver transplant could be the only life-saving treatment left.
Therefore, it is important to visit your doctor if you have one or more of the following symptoms or signs:
1. You notice, or people tell you, that your eyes are now yellow in colour and that this yellowish discoloration keeps deepening.
2. You begin to have this severe itching almost all over your body with or without rashes.
3. You find out that your urine is now dark-coloured like a coca cola drink.
4. Your stool (faeces) is pale and bulky (it is more than usual in quantity) and may be difficult to flush in the water closet.
5. Your appetite has reduced and you frequently have this feeling of vomiting. And often vomit.
6. Your sleep pattern has significantly changed. You find it difficult sleeping at night or wake many times in the night; you sleep several times during the day; you find it difficult to concentrate or think clearly almost all the time.
7. You feel pain at the right upper side of your abdomen (tummy) below the rib cage. Your abdomen may also start swelling, the same goes for your legs and ankles.
Your seeing a doctor if you have one or more of these symptoms and signs becomes more urgent if any of the following below was true for you before the symptoms and signs appeared:
- You were transfused with blood some months before the symptoms appeared. This means that the blood could have been donated by someone with hepatitis B virus infection.
- You shared sharp objects like needles for injection or razor blades with other people; or you had body piercings like tattoos from an unhygienic and unsafe place. These make room for blood transmission of the hepatitis B virus from infected persons to healthy individuals.
- You had unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners: sex without condom, oral sex or anal sex. The hepatitis B and D viruses can be contracted through sexual intercourse.
- You are a long time heavy alcoholic. Excessive alcohol consumption for years can lead to what is known alcoholic liver disease.
- You used far more than the recommended dose of certain drugs such as paracetamol for a long time; or you have been taking all sorts of herbal medicines for years. These damage the liver over time.
- You have been eating peanuts, maize, rice infested with mold (those whitish foggy things found on food items). A type of this mold produces a chemical called aflatoxin which has been found to cause liver cancer if taken for a long time.
- You have been eating food from an unhygienic restaurant along the streets for some time now. Or you have been drinking water from a possibly contaminated source. This is because the hepatitis E virus can be passed through the stool of an infected person, and when such a person prepares food in a restaurant without proper hand washing after using the toilet he or she can contaminate the food with the virus.
- You came in contact with someone with yellowish discoloration of their eyes. The hepatitis A virus can be transmitted through personal contact with an infected person, especially in children in day care centres.
- You are obese. Obesity is associated with a type of liver disease known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in which there is accumulation of fat in the liver.
Prevention is always the best medicine. So, everybody should:
- get vaccinated against the hepatitis B virus
- those who take alcohol should cut down on the quantity they consume
- sexually active individuals should ensure they use protection (condom) if they have multiple partners. Those who engage in different sexual acts like oral or anal sex should ensure their partner is healthy (having only one trustworthy partner here cuts down the risk of infection)
- Do not share sharp objects
- Ensure that you only receive screened blood
- Make sure where you get your tattoos adhere to the highest of hygienic and other safety health standards
- Eat only in very clean and hygienic restaurants. Do not buy or eat rotten rice, maize or peanut. Drink clean water and maintain a personal hygiene
- Maintain a healthy weight to avoid obesity.
For more advice and help, feel free to ask a Doctor on via The Reliance Care App