Director-actor Nishikant Kamat passed away on August 17, after battling liver cirrhosis. “Nishikant Kamat (50 years, male) was admitted to AIG Hospitals on 31st July 2020 with complaints of fever and excessive fatigue. It was diagnosed that he was suffering from liver cirrhosis for the past two years,” read the official statement from the hospital.
Cirrhosis can be defined as chronic liver damage that is an end result of a variety of liver diseases characterised by “fibrosis and architectural distortion of the liver with the formation of regenerative nodules”, according to the World Gastroenterology Organisation website. Some of the common causative factors include alcohol, NASH (Non-alcoholic Steato-Hepatitis) and viral hepatitis.
The estimated worldwide mortality from cirrhosis during 2001 was about 771,000 people, mentions World Gastroenterology Organisation, adding that such increasing deaths from the disease would likely make it the 12th leading cause of death in 2020.
In India, the common causes are alcohol-induced liver damage (excessive alcohol consumption over a period of time leads to cirrhosis), and hepatitis B and C viral infections, Dr Neerav Goyal, head, liver transplant, hepatobiliary and pancreatic unit, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, told indianexpress.com. “Both these infections over 10-15 years may cause cirrhosis. Fat-induced liver damage is the new epidemic because of changing lifestyle and obesity, and is gradually becoming the primary cause of cirrhosis in the country. Apart from this, one may have blood vessel issues where they may be blocked,” he explained.
About 25-30 per cent of the cases of cirrhosis would be due to alcohol. Similar would be the case for hepatitis B. But NASH or non-alcoholic fatty-liver induced cirrhosis is increasing — earlier it was less than 20 per cent, added the doctor.
The most common symptom is fatigue, the doctor said. “These patients also have very low protein levels so there could be swelling in the legs or body, or fluid accumulation in the abdomen leading to swelling. They may sometimes vomit blood or have black stool. Some may develop high jaundice, which is yellowing of eyes and dark yellow urine.”
Cirrhosis can be treated if diagnosed early, advised Dr Goyal. Both hepatitis B and C can be controlled or cured with medication. Abstinence from alcohol can also improve liver disease to some extent. Liver damage can be life-threatening and may require a transplant.
He further said, “For majority of the people diagnosed with cirrhosis — about 75-80 per cent — the disease can be stopped from progressing further with proper treatment. But there will be about 15-20 per cent of people who come in at an advanced stage or their health might continue to deteriorate despite treatment. For these people, the treatment then involves a liver transplant.” But even that is challenging in our country. “In India, there are more than two lakh patients awaiting a liver transplant every year and only about 1200-1500 get it across the country. The organ donation rate in the country stands at 0.26 per million population, while even smaller countries like Croatia have an organ donation rate of 35-36 per million population,” Dr Goyal pointed out.
Here are some tips to keep in mind, according to Dr Goyal:
* Have a healthy diet that is low in fats. Have a lot of leafy vegetables, green salads, lemon and orange juice. The diet should be rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.
* Exercise daily. Walking for 4-5 km a day should be good enough to keep you healthy.
* Avoid alcohol and smoking.
* If you have other health conditions like diabetes, make sure to keep blood sugar levels under control. Be in regular touch with your doctor.
* Those who have developed hepatitis B or C should be on treatment; that tends to cure the disease in 95 per cent of the patients. They should follow up with their doctor on a regular basis.