Cry, the Beloved Liver (with Apologies to Alan Paton) a Hepatitis primer.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)

Manila Bulletin, September 27, 2002 | Go to article overview

Cry, the Beloved Liver (with Apologies to Alan Paton) a Hepatitis primer.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)


Byline: Dr. Jose S. Pujalte, Jr.

IF the devil were to offer me a resurgence of what is commonly called virility, I'd decline. "Just keep my liver and lungs in good working order," I'd reply, "so I can go on drinking and smoking!"Luis Bunuel (1900-1983), Spanish filmmaker. My Last Sigh, Ch. 6 (1983)

How many times have you heard yourself (or another person) say "Oh, my liver's hurting today?" with the familiarity of a stomach- or headache? Not too often. Our concept of the liver is vague or non-existent. We'd be quicker to confuse it with sweetbread, salivate over its preparation with onions than retain the odd fact that it is the largest gland of the human body, weighing approximately 1500 grams. The liver is unfamiliar, underrated, and unappreciated.

If and when liver disease strikes, it only follows we are completely in the dark.

Presenting the Liver. We're not entirely at fault for knowing little about the liver. After all it's not as accessible as a breast or a nose. Any anatomy book will tell you that it lies mainly in the right upper half of the abdomen, protected by the 7th to the 11th ribs. A normal liver is not easy to examine but while inhaling deeply, the liver can be felt just under the right 12th rib. The liver is the main processing plant of the body. It is responsible for turning food into energy by breaking it down. Essential building-blocks of the body such as bile, cholesterol, plasma proteins and immune factors are secreted from the liver. Glycogen, the body's fuel, is stored here as well. The liver's other main function is that of a filter. It sieves chemicals and toxins and excretes these.

Liver Troubles. There are over a 100 liver diseases. Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver and it could be caused by viruses, alcohol, or drugs. The most common viruses affecting the liver are Hepatitis A, B, and C. Hepatitis A is transmitted by ingesting food or drinking water containing infected body waste products. The incidence is higher in areas with poor sewerage and septic systems (Metro Manila!). Acute hepatitis presents as

* Fever

* Loss of appetite

* Nausea and vomiting

* Dark urine

* Yellowish skin and eye whites (jaundice)

* Loose, whitish to yellow stools

Fortunately, once the virus is shed there is long-lasting immunity to Hepatitis A. The treatment is symptomatic. …

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