Liver ailments on rise due to binge drinking: Dr TK Neelamekam

Bengaluru: This year's World Liver Day, observed on April 19, is themed 'Riding New Waves in Liver Diagnosis, Staging and Treatment’. Despite technological advances, city doctors rue that the average age of liver disease patients is 40-45 years. Alarmingly, instances of these diseases are rising among youngsters and urban poor in the country.

Citing reasons for the rise, Dr T.K. Neelamekam, Director, Centre for Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Sciences & Liver Transplant, Fortis Hospital, said, "Alcohol is the most dreaded reason in youngsters, who indulge in binge drinking. It has become a fashion and youngsters come with raised enzymes or fatty liver disease due to bad eating habits too.”

He said, "The most common liver diseases are hepatitis c and hepatitis b, which occur due to the use of needles or blood transfusion at some stage in their lives. If diagnosed early, these can be treated as various advanced drugs are available. We can help patients recover and stop the infection from proceeding to the end-stage liver disease when it becomes irreversible.”

Though there is an increase in demand for liver transplants and the costs are high, none of the schemes sponsored by the state government, including Suvarna Arogya Suraksha Trust (SEST), cover liver transplant. But Amma scheme in Tamil Nadu and Arogyashree in Andra Pradesh do cover organ transplants.

“When a patient suffers from liver decompensation, his body is like a vehicle running on reserve fuel. Everything may seem alright outwardly, but things may come to an abrupt stop anytime. A timely liver transplant provides the body a new 'engine' and has the potential to add many more meaningful years to life," said Dr Kishore G.S.B., Senior Consultant, HPB Surgery and Liver Transplantation, Sakra World Hospital. Dr Vineet, Hepatologist from Global Hospitals, said, “Every year, around 2,500 patients in the state require liver transplants, but hardly 10 percent can afford treatment in private hospitals. The cost of transplant is high cost and very few facilities can carry out such a transplant.”

He said, “INR, creatinine, bilirubin and sodium levels are considered to score the level infection in a patient. If it's above 15, we list a patient for transplants. The cost of a liver transplant ranges from Rs 26 lakh to Rs 36 lakh.”

Doctors suggested that regular checkups, a better lifestyle with exercising and diet are a must for people to lead a better life. 

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