The liver is the second largest organ that plays an essential role in various functions such as protein production, blood clotting, cholesterol, sugar, and iron metabolism. It also stores energy, helps to digest food, detoxification of waste and filters toxic substances out of the blood.
Liver disease refers to any harmful condition that can affect the liver negatively. These conditions may occur for different reasons. But they can all harm the liver and impact its function.
Liver disease symptoms vary, depending on the primary cause. However, some general symptoms may indicate some kind of liver diseases.
These symptoms include:
Hepatitis is the viral infection of the liver. It causes inflammation to the liver, disturbing its normal functioning. There are five types of hepatitis. All of them are contagious.
Hepatitis A – Is spread when an individual is in direct contact with contaminated food or water. Symptoms may end without treatment, but recovery can take a few weeks.
Hepatitis B – Can be acute or chronic. It is spread through body fluids, such as blood and semen. While hepatitis B is treatable, there’s no cure for it if infected. Early treatment is the only key to avoiding complications. Hence, it is best to get regular screenings if someone is at risk.
Hepatitis C – It can also be acute or chronic. It usually spreads through contact with blood from someone affected with hepatitis C. It often doesn’t cause symptoms in its early stages, but it can lead to permanent liver damage in its later stages.
Hepatitis D – Is a severe form of hepatitis that only develops in people with hepatitis B. It cannot be contracted on its own.
Hepatitis E – Is usually caused by drinking contaminated water. Generally, it clears up on its own within a few weeks without any lasting complications.
Vaccines are available for two types of hepatitis― Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.
Note: Get vaccinated and reduce your risk of hepatitis. Always consult your physician before.
Fatty liver disease is a common problem caused by certain fat deposition in the liver. In most cases, it does not cause any severe issues, but it can lead to liver damage. There are two types of fatty liver disease.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition when too much fat has built up inside the liver. The extra fat can inflame the liver. One type of NAFLD is non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). It means there has been inflammation and cell damage in the liver, as well as fat.
If left unmanaged, both types of fatty liver disease could cause liver damage, leading to cirrhosis and liver failure. Proper diet and other lifestyle changes can often improve symptoms and reduce the risk of complications.
Cirrhosis refers to scarring that results from liver diseases and other factors of liver damage, such as alcohol use disorder. Cystic fibrosis and syphilis may also lead to cirrhosis.
The liver has the ability to regenerate in response to damage, but this process usually results in the development of scar tissue. The more scar tissue that develops, the more difficult it is for the liver to function properly. In its early stages, cirrhosis is usually treatable. But if left unmanaged, it can lead to other complications and can be life-threatening.
Autoimmune diseases involve the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy cells in the body.
Several autoimmune conditions involve immune system attacking cells and the liver, including:
Autoimmune Hepatitis – This condition causes the immune system to attack the liver, leading to inflammation. If left untreated, it can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.
Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC) – PBC results from damage to the bile ducts in the liver, causing a build-up of bile. PBC can also lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.
Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis – This inflammatory condition causes gradual damage to the bile ducts. They eventually get blocked, causing bile to build up in the liver. This can lead to cirrhosis or liver failure.
Liver cancer initially develops in the liver. If cancer from any other body part spreads to the liver, then it is called secondary liver cancer.
Hepatocellular carcinoma is one of the most common type of liver cancer. It tends to develop as few tiny spots of cancer in the liver, though it can also start as a single tumour.
Several genetic conditions, which are inherited from one of the parents, can also affect the liver:
Hemochromatosis – Causes the body to store more iron than it requires. This iron remains in the organs, including the liver. This can lead to damage over a long period of time if not controlled.
Wilson’s Disease – Causes the liver to absorb copper instead of releasing it into the bile ducts. Eventually, the liver may become too damaged to store more copper, allowing it to travel through the bloodstream and damage other parts of the body, including the brain.
Alpha-1 Antitrypsin (AT) – Deficiency occurs when the liver is unable to produce enough alpha-1 antitrypsin. It is a protein that helps prevent enzyme breakdowns throughout the body. This health issue can cause lung disease as well as liver disease. There is no specific cure, but treatment can be helpful.
Liver Failure – The liver is losing or has lost all of its function. It is a life-threatening condition that needs urgent medical care.
The initial symptoms of liver failure are often nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, and diarrhea. Because these symptoms are common symptoms for many illnesses, it may be difficult to tell that the liver is failing. But as liver failure progresses, the symptoms become more severe. The patient may become confused and disoriented and extremely tired. There may be a risk of coma and death. Severe liver failure requires immediate treatment.
If an individual senses any of the symptoms that may put them at the risk of developing any liver disease, it’s best to get early screening tests to narrow down what’s causing those symptoms.
Some of the standard tests to rule out liver diseases are:
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