July 11, 2017 186
Hepatitis is pretty common in developing countries and Malaysia being one, we need to be very aware of the prevalence of such diseases. But did you know, only environmental factors are not a cause for Hepatitis. It can occur due to various other reasons as well. Dr Andy Easwaren Vasudevan, Consultant Physician & Gastroenterologist at Columbia Asia Hospital Petaling Jaya shares some insights into this topic.
GetDoc: Generally, looking at Malaysians, do you think that most of the population have a healthy liver? What about Hepatitis?
Dr Andy Easwaren: It is difficult to judge who has or doesn’t have a healthy liver based on observation but our population is currently among those with highest rates of obesity and this in turn is associated with fatty liver. Hepatitis is essentially inflammation of the liver and can be due to various causes like Hepatitis A,B,C and also fatty liver which is also known as non alcoholic steatotic hepatitis. In addition drugs, alcohol and other infections can also lead to hepatitis. Seroprevalance of Hepatitis B is 1.5-9.8% of the general population in Malaysia and hepatitis C is 2%. Hepatitis A is common , however many people are not diagnosed because they may have fever, flu and muscle ache which resolves on its own.
GetDoc: Hepatitis C can be 30 times more infectious than HIV, affecting most of the 130 million people globally. What does that mean to Malaysia?
Dr Andy Easwaren: Hepatitis C is more infectious than HIV and is currently on the rise in Malaysia. In Malaysia the prevalence of hepatitis C is about 2% and amongst blood donors 0.3% is positive for anti-HCV. Although Hepatitis C is more infectious, it is transmissible through contaminated needles i.e intravenous drug abusers, unprotected sex, blood transfusions and rarely through dialysis machines. One cannot get hepatitis C from eating, kissing or sharing utensils but may get it from sharing toothbrushes or razors. Universal precautions can prevent an individual from contracting Hepatitis C as well as avoiding high risk behaviour.
GetDoc: Recently, we read about a new drug claiming to cure Hepatitis C at the cost of RM 150k per patient. However it was later proven that the drug has little effect in curing the disease. How can a patient know if they are paying for something that is working for them, as usually such medication breaks their bank?
Dr Andy Easwaren: The new and expensive drug for Hepatitis C has been launched recently, Sofosbuvir and is currently used for Hepatitis C genotype 1 and this is claimed have a 98-99% cure rate for this Type of hepatitis C. The current research shows that this drug is effective but the patient must have the suitable hepatitis C genotype for successful treatment.In addition the company marketing the medication was at one time giving a refund minus GST/administrative charges because they were sure of its efficacy
How would a patient know if they are paying for something effective? It would be advisable to seek treatment from a Gastroenterologist or Hepatologist. And if in doubt there is no harm in getting a second opinion because this is expensive medication . Buying the medication on the internet can lead to consuming imitation medication.
GetDoc: How can we keep our liver healthy and prevent diseases such as hepatitis and fatty liver disease?
Dr Andy Easwaren: To keep our liver healthy, one should maintain a healthy lifestyle. High sugars, cholesterol and diet are responsible for fatty liver. A sedentary lifestyle also can predispose one to metabolic disturbances which in turn can lead to diabetes and fat accumulation in the liver. Diet rich in fat, calories and alcohol can lead to disturbances in liver function and worsen or result in Fatty liver. Obesity is another preventable cause of fatty liver and Malaysia is currently having a problem with its obesity. In addition certain herbal supplements or traditional medication (i.e slimming pills, joint supplements) are detrimental to the liver. These are known to even lead to liver failure and eventual death.
To prevent contracting viral hepatitis one should eat or consume clean food,drink and avoid shellfish if possible to reduce the chance of getting Hepatitis A.
For hepatitis B and C, having protected sex and avoiding sharing needles would reduce the risk. Some individuals are unfortunate to receive blood transfusions in the early years before we knew about these viruses but in this day and age transmission through blood and dialysis is reducing.
Vaccination is available for hepatitis A and B but not for hepatitis C. in addition regular check ups with a GP for Hepatitis A,B antibodies and Liver function test, Cholesterol and Glucose can ensure early detection of liver disease so that early treatment can be instituted.
We hope this information will be helpful for our readers out there. If you have any questions on this topic, feel free to ask in the comment section below.
To make an appointment with Dr Andy Easwaren, visit GetDoc.
Qian's interest in healthcare industry came about after her father was diagnosed with bladder cancer. This experience has led her to become a strong believer in empowering individuals to take charge of their own health. View all articles by Qian.