Public warned on growing risk of liver diseases

Public warned on growing risk of liver diseases

MEDICAL professionals urge the public to watch their diet as the quality of food is exacerbating the risks of liver diseases like fatty liver, liver cirrhosis, and liver cancer.

Dr. Miguelito Lasala, consultant – gastroenterologist at the Department of Internal Medicine of the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), said there is a need to educate the public about liver health.

“We’re trying to educate everybody simply because everybody is at risk, ikaw, ako at siya (you, me and them), and why? Simply because it depends kung anong kinain natin kung anong nilagay natin sa ating bibig (what we eat and what we put in our mouth); and looking at the type of food we are eating right now, even the young children are, I have seen as young as 10 years old, already having fatty liver,” Lasala said at the  “Healthy Davao Media Forum'' held on January 29 at SM City Davao.

He said that if the problem is not controlled, they will expect more people to have fatty livers, which would develop into liver disease.

“Yang liver cirrhosis, anyan ang template papuntang liver cancer (that liver cirrhosis, that would be the template leading to liver cancer),” Lasala said, citing that around 20 to 30 percent of people with liver cirrhosis will develop liver cancer.

“Huwag tayong maging happy doon iisipin natin ay konti lang pala ang magka-liver cancer, you should really worry because liver cirrhosis alone is a problem, pwedeng mamatay ang pasyente sa liver cirrhosis and complications associated with it (Let us not be happy because we might think these are a small percentage of developing liver cancer. You should worry because liver cancer alone is a problem; a patient can die because of liver cirrhosis and the complications associated with it),” he said.

He added that access to unhealthy food has aggravated the risk, citing modern technology like food delivery apps as contributing to more people eating fast food.

“Ang generation ngayon mahilig sa burger; we have this burger generation, and it’s very easy to order. We have the app and the delivery riders, andyan na kaagad. It is the quality of food that is giving us the problem,” Lasala said.

As for liver cirrhosis, one of the well-known causes is drinking too much alcohol. 

“Everybody knows that. For those that really are drinking alcohol, especially yung hard drinkers, beer drinkers, depending on the amount or volume of the alcohol you have, whether it is daily or once a week, and the duration, you are actually at risk of developing liver cirrhosis,” Lasala said.

However, the gastroenterologist revealed that the most dominant cause of liver cirrhosis taken from the records of the Philippine General Hospital and the National Kidney Transplant Institute is still chronic hepatitis B, caused by the virus.

Lasala saidthat in the region, another cause of liver cirrhosis is schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease carried by snails living in swampy or waterlogged areas.

“Endemic ang schisto sa Davao del Norte, sa Carmen dyan sa Davao del Sur sa Hagonoy area, marami dyan. Eto galing sa paa, aakyat sa liver ang damage nyan is liver cirrhosis (The schisto is endemic in the region; in Davao del Norte, in Carmen, and in Davao del Sur in Hagonoy, there are many cases. It starts from the feet going to the liver; the damage is liver cirrhosis),” Lasala said.

Information campaign

As for liver diseases associated with a poor, unbalanced diet, Lasala said a good information campaign, which will reach the grassroots, is very important in spreading awareness.

“This is not just a problem in class ABC but also in DE. It is everybody’s concern,” Lasala said.

He said that a fatty liver, chronic hepatitis B, and early-stage cirrhosis generally do not manifest symptoms.

“If we conduct a random check inside the mall, get some people, do a test, and determine they have fatty liver through ultrasound, and if we ask them if they feel anything related to the stomach and liver, our data will tell us 90 percent will not feel anything wrong,” Lasala said.

He said that fatty liver is identified through ultrasound, which is a readily available and affordable test.

Lasala recommended that as part of a company’s annual physical examinations, an ultrasound test for fatty liver be included. PIA DAVAO

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