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For Immediate Release
LONDON, Ontario – What is the main cause of liver disease? You may think the correct answer is alcohol, but this is not the case.
The liver is the largest internal and most metabolically complex organ in humans. This organ performs over 500 different functions including fighting off infection, neutralizing toxins, manufacturing proteins and hormones, controlling blood sugar and helping to clot the blood.
At London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), a multi-disciplinary team works with patients to provide treatment and care for liver disease. Prevention plays a big part in preventing liver disease and in ensuring that liver conditions do not progress to a point where transplant is required.
According to the Canadian Liver Foundation, there are over 100 forms of liver disease that affect men, women and children, and only one is directly caused by alcohol.
Many types of liver disease still have unknown causes, but the most frequent liver diseases are generally caused by one of the following factors:
• Viral hepatitis
Caused by viruses that attack the liver, viral hepatitis comes in many forms, with the most common forms world-wide being hepatitis A, B and C. In Canada, hepatitis C is the leading indication for liver transplants.
The leading cause of liver disease in Canada, however liver function can be improved with weight loss and better dietary habits.
Factors such as gender, age, nationality, weight and overall health can affect how a person’s liver metabolizes alcohol.
Several forms of liver disease are caused or thought to be caused, by defective genes.
• Autoimmune disorders
The body’s immune system may attack the liver or bile ducts causing inflammation and scarring which leads to a progressive form of liver disease.
• Drugs and toxins
The liver is responsible for processing most of the chemicals and medications that enter your body – this leaves it vulnerable to acute or chronic liver disease caused by medications. In some cases, this is a predictable consequence of overexposure or over-consumption of certain medications such as acetaminophen.
Although primary liver cancer is relatively uncommon, many other forms of cancer metastasize to the liver. Liver transplantation may be indicated for some forms of liver cancer that are caused by an underlying liver disease. Chemotherapy and radiofrequency ablation are also used to treat liver tumors.
Ways to prevent liver disease:
• Maintain a healthy weight, avoid a high fat diet, exercise regularly and if you are diabetic, it is important to control your blood glucose levels within the normal range.
• Get vaccinated for Hepatitis A & B. If you know someone who has Hepatitis C, it is important not to share razors, toothbrushes and anything that could be contaminated with blood.
• Avoid excessive use of acetaminophen (Tylenol) because it can cause life-threatening liver failure especially in combination with alcohol and other drugs.
• Do not use Ecstacy (MDMA) which is a type of amphetamine – even one tablet has the potential to cause complete liver failure.
• Do not drink excessive amounts of alcohol and if you have any type of liver disease, you should not ingest any alcohol. Do not drink alcohol during pregnancy because it can lead to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in the baby. FASD causes life-long learning, behavioural, and physical impairments.
• Be cautious in the use of herbal preparations. Some of these mixtures contain elements that are toxic to the liver.
• All patients with Hepatitis B or C should be seen by a hepatologist or infectious disease specialist to ensure that they are assessed for antiviral therapy and have ongoing follow-up care.
About London Health Sciences Centre
London Health Sciences Centre has been in the forefront of medicine in Canada for 137 years and offers the broadest range of specialized clinical services in Ontario. Building on the traditions of its founding hospitals to provide compassionate care in an academic teaching setting, London Health Sciences Centre is home to Children’s Hospital, South Street Hospital, University Hospital, Victoria Hospital, two family medical centres, and two research institutes – Children’s Health Research Institute and Lawson Health Research Institute, a joint research initiative with St. Joseph’s Health Care London. As a leader in medical discovery and health research, London Health Sciences Centre has a history of over 50 international and national firsts and attracts top clinicians and researchers from around the world. As a regional referral centre, London Health Sciences Centre cares for the most medically complex patients including critically injured adults and children in southwestern Ontario and beyond. The hospital’s nearly 15,000 staff, physicians, students and volunteers provide care for more than one million patient visits a year. For more information visit www.lhsc.on.ca
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Corporate Communications and Public Relations
London Health Sciences Centre
519-685-8500, ext. 77642
Visit the LHSC Media web site at www.lhsc.on.ca/media