Liver Disease – Overview
An organ that is about the size of a football is the liver which sits just under the rib cage on the right side of the abdomen. For digesting food and ridding the body of toxic substances, liver is necessary.
Liver disease can be inherited or genetic. A variety of factors that damage the liver, such as viruses, alcohol use and obesity can also be a cause of liver problems.
Over the period of time, conditions that damage the liver can lead to scarring (cirrhosis), liver failure may be led to because of this which is a life-threatening condition. But to give the liver time to heal, early treatment may be given.
Liver Disease – Symptoms
Noticeable signs and symptoms are not always caused in liver disease. If signs and symptoms of liver disease may occur it may include:
- Skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice)
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Swelling in the legs and ankles
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine color
- Pale stool color
- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Tendency to bruise easily
Appointment should be made with doctor if having any persistent signs or symptoms that are worrisome. Immediate medical attention should be sought if having abdominal pain which is so severe to stay still.
Liver Disease – Causes
Many causes are there for liver disease.
Liver can be affected by parasites and viruses, causing inflammation that reduces liver function. Liver damage can be caused by the viruses which can be spread through blood or semen, contaminated food or water, or close contact with a person who is infected. Hepatitis viruses are the most common types of liver infection, including:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
Immune system abnormality
Liver can be affected by diseases in which the immune system attacks some parts of the body (autoimmune). Autoimmune liver diseases example may include:
- Autoimmune hepatitis
- Primary biliary cholangitis
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis
Different substances can build up in the liver due to an abnormal gene inherited from one or both of parents liver, resulting in liver damage. Genetic liver diseases include:
- Wilson’s disease
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
Cancer and other growths
Examples for cancer and other growths may include:
- Liver cancer
- Bile duct cancer
- Liver adenoma
Common causes of liver disease additionally may include:
- Chronic alcohol abuse
- Fat accumulation in the liver (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease)
- Certain prescription or over-the-counter medications
- Certain herbal compounds
Liver Disease – Risk factors
Risk of liver disease may increase due to factors which may include:
- Heavy alcohol use
- Type 2 diabetes
- Tattoos or body piercings
- Injecting drugs using shared needles
- Blood transfusion before 1992
- Exposure to other people’s blood and body fluids
- Unprotected sex
- Exposure to certain chemicals or toxins
- Family history of liver disease
Liver Disease – Complications
Liver disease complications may differ, depending on the cause of the liver problems. Liver disease which is not treated may progress to liver failure, a life-threatening condition.
Liver Disease – Prevention
Liver disease may be prevented by:
- Alcohol should be drunk in moderation that means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men in healthy adults. More than eight drinks a week for women and more than 15 drinks a week for men is defined as heavy or high-risk drinking.
- A condom should be used during sex. If choosing to have tattoos or body piercings, when selecting a shop be picky about cleanliness and safety. Help should be sought if using illicit intravenous drugs, and sharing needles should be avoided to inject drugs.
- Risk of contracting hepatitis is increased or if already been infected with any form of the hepatitis virus, doctor should be contacted about getting the hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines.
- Prescription and nonprescription drugs should be taken only when required and only in suggested doses. Don’t mix medications and alcohol. Doctor should be consulted before combining herbal supplements or prescription or nonprescription drugs.
- Spread of hepatitis viruses can be by accidental needle sticks or improper cleanup of blood or body fluids.
- Food should be kept safe by washing hands thoroughly before eating or preparing foods. If traveling in a developing country, bottled water should be used to drink, hands should be washed and teeth should be brushed.
- Aerosol sprays and products like should be ensured to use in a well-ventilated area, and wear a mask when spraying insecticides, fungicides, paint and other toxic chemicals. Manufacturer’s instructions should be always followed.
- Skin should be protected when using insecticides and other toxic chemicals, gloves to be worn, long sleeves, a hat and a mask so that chemicals aren’t absorbed through the skin.
- A healthy weight should be maintained as obesity can cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Liver Disease – Diagnosis
It is essential to find the cause and extent of liver damage in guiding treatment. A health history and thorough physical examination is likely to be the starting point of the doctor.
The doctor may then suggest:
- To diagnose liver disease, a group of blood tests called liver function tests can be used. To look for particular liver problems or genetic conditions, other blood tests can be conducted.
- Imaging tests such as an ultrasound, CT scan and MRI can show liver damage.
- A tissue sample also known as biopsy is removed from the liver to help diagnose liver disease and look for signs of liver damage. A long needle inserted through the skin to extract a tissue sample that’s sent to a lab for testing is usually done in a liver biopsy.
Liver Disease – Treatment
Liver disease treatment depends on diagnosis. Lifestyle modifications, such as stopping alcohol usage or losing weight, can be used to treat some liver problems typically as part of a medical program that includes careful monitoring of liver function. Medications or surgery might be needed to treat other liver problems.
Liver transplant may be required in ultimate cases where treatment for liver disease that causes or has led to liver failure.
Liver Disease – Lifestyle and home remedies
Certain lifestyle habits can be changed which can often help in improving liver health. If liver disease has been diagnosed, he doctor may recommend that:
- Drink alcohol sparingly, if at all.
- Red meat, trans fats, processed carbohydrates and foods with high-fructose corn syrup to be avoided.
- Exercise 30 to 60 minutes around three to four times a week at a moderate intensity.
- Cutting calories by 500 to 1,000 calories daily, if overweight.
Liver Disease – Alternative medicine
For the treatment of liver disease, no alternative medicine therapies have been proved. Possible benefits have been indicated in some studies, but further research is required.
Some dietary and herbal supplements can harm the liver on the other hand. More than a thousand medications and herbal products have been related with liver damage, including:
- Vitamin A
- Pennyroyal oil
It’s important that doctor should be consulted about the potential risks before taking any complementary or alternative medicines in order to protect the liver.
Liver Disease – Preparing for appointment
A doctor who specializes in the liver also known as hepatologist might be referred.
What can be done:
- Any pre-appointment restrictions should be made aware, such as not eating solid food on the day before appointment.
- Symptoms should be written down, including anything that may seem unrelated to the reason why the appointment is scheduled.
- A list of all medications should be made including, vitamins and supplements.
- Key medical information should be written down, including other conditions.
- Key personal information should be written down, including any recent changes or stressors in life.
- A relative or friend should be asked to accompany, to help in remembering what the doctor says.
- Questions to ask the doctor should be written down.
In addition to the questions that are prepared to ask the doctor, other questions during appointment should be asked without hesitation.
A number of questions is likely to be asked by the doctor. Being ready to answer those questions may leave time to go over points that are wanted to spend more time on. Questions that may be asked:
- Beginning of experiencing symptoms, and their severity? Symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- Anything improving symptoms, or making them worse?
- Skin or eyes ever turned yellow?
- Medications and supplements being taken?
- Days of the week of drinking alcohol?
- Having any tattoos?
- Job involving exposure to chemicals, blood or body fluids?
- Ever had a blood transfusion?
- Having any liver problems before?
- Family ever been diagnosed with liver disease?