DR. Chris Oundo used to record so many cases of distended abdomen in Busia that the Ministry of Health was forced to intervene. Oundo says abdominal distension is commonly caused by liver cirrhosis, cancer of the liver and an enlarged spleen a result of chronic infection from malaria, sickle cell
DR. Chris Oundo used to record so many cases of distended abdomen in Busia that the Ministry of Health was forced to intervene. Oundo says abdominal distension is commonly caused by liver cirrhosis, cancer of the liver and an enlarged spleen a result of chronic infection from malaria, sickle cell anaemia, some forms of cancers (lymphomas) and ovarian cysts.
â€œThe commonest cause of cirrhosis in Busia is bilharzia. Since our basic food is millet and fish, people usually step in contaminated water as they fish, hence getting bilharzia, which destroys the liver,â€ he adds.
Unfortunately, Oundo says, there is still an entrenched belief in witchcraft and traditional approaches to disease prevention and management.
â€œMushrooming churches with patients abandoning treatment in hope of miracle healing have worsened the situation.â€
Oundo says the health ministry embarked on massive treatment of adults and immunisation of children against Hepatitis B, plus sensitising communities about prevention and management of the disease.
â€œThe Government immunised all children against Hepatitis B. Adults were not immunised because of the high cost, but one can access the vaccine at sh60,000, which is costly for many people in the area.
â€œBesides, adults have to first confirm that they are not infected with Hepatitis B before they can be vaccinated, otherwise it would be useless. A test goes for sh5,000. Children are the most high risk group,â€ he explains.
Oundo says mass treatment is ongoing with tablets, especially in schools.
â€œWe are also conducting sensitisation campaigns on modes of transmission.
Hepatitis B is contracted through body fluids and is about 10 times more infectious than HIV,â€ he discloses.
He, however, regrets that with liver cirrhosis, they can only give supportive treatment to relieve pressure on the abdomen.
Doctors also give advice on diet to avoid foods high in protein and fats that cause constipation.
Effects of abdominal distention
â€œYou have difficulty breathing because the fluid puts pressure on the abdomen. Also, depending on the cause, you are at high risk of neurological complications because of damage to the liver, like in the case of liver cirrhosis. It also pre-disposes one to infections within the abdomen.â€
There is also discomfort and pain.
If the cause is ovarian cysts, there is likely to be irregular bleeding.
Oundo urges the Government for increased intervention, saying: â€œThe Government is concentrating on prevention and treatment, but education is still lacking.â€
Abdominal distension common in Busia