Monday, July 22, 2019
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The Other Hepatitis

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The last of two Hepatitis in my trilogy may surprise you. The first one, Alcoholic Steatohepatitis is a syndrome of progressive inflammatory liver injury caused by long-term or heavy alcohol abuse and is one of the leading causes of cirrhosis in America. This form of hepatitis is not contagious. (Remember, Hepatitis broken down only means inflammation of the liver) In the beginning there are not usually many symptoms, but once damage to the liver begins due to the constant inflammation, the same symptoms of Cirrhosis become present. Ascites (fluid retention in the stomach area) and/or Edema is usually one of the first symptoms, along with spider nevi. Hepatic encephalopathy, variceal hemorrhages, and Jaundice are also commonly present. Damage from Alcoholic Steatohepatitis can be stopped, and if caught early enough, even reversed. This is only possible if all alcohol consumption is stopped. If alcohol abuse continues, Cirrhosis will usually cause liver failure and a liver transplant will be needed. I have known alcoholics who completely quit drinking and their liver function increased dramatically. A friend of mine actually had cirrhosis on her liver, quit drinking, started eating for her liver, exercised lightly – and now her doctors cannot find any signs of cirrhosis. Amazing!! However, the few friends I had that continued to drink are sadly either no longer with us, or constantly in the hospital with declining health. If you are or know someone with an alcohol problem, please seek help. There is hope!

Lastly, NASH or Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis is fat in the liver, with inflammation and damage, and is quickly becoming another leading cause of cirrhosis. A non-contagious Hepatitis similar to Alcoholic Steatohepatitis, except it is not caused by alcohol, the actual underlining cause is still not known. It is usually found in middle aged people who are obese and/or have diabetes. Though people are now starting to have high levels of cholesterol and lipids at a younger age, and more and more children are being diagnosed with NAFLD (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease). 1/3 of all Americans have fat in their liver, and you do not have to be obese to have a fatty liver. (Wow, right?! We, as Americans, have to get this under control. Enough with the fast and processed food! ) However, being diagnosed with NAFLD does not necessarily mean damage has occurred, or NASH is present… But it is a warning (in my opinion) and the good news is that NAFLD can be reversed if the proper diet is started (weight loss is very important if obese), fructose, sucrose, and fats/oils are limited and an exercise plan is in place. Doing this will reduce your chances of getting NASH or will slow/stop its progression if already diagnosed with it. Once NASH is present, you still may not have any symptoms (except maybe some fatigue) until it advances to cirrhosis. If cirrhosis continues and causes liver failure, a transplant will be the only option left, there is no treatment or cure for NASH.

Most of these forms of Hepatitis can result in ESLD (End stage liver disease) and cirrhosis.  Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver, and there is no cure for that. Eventually the scar tissue causes poor liver function and then failure of the organ occurs. Though the liver is resilient, and can even regenerate itself to an extent, once your liver begins to fail the only option to continue living is a liver transplant. There are no dialysis machines for the liver, no machines complex enough to do what your liver must do. This is why it is so important to be kind to your liver, love your liver!! …And also important for you to become an organ donor, because right now, there aren’t nearly enough to go around. Live Life then Give Life!!

This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

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