The liver is an organ about the size of a football that sits just under your rib cage on the right side of your abdomen. The liver is essential for digesting food and ridding your body of toxic substances. Liver disease can be inherited (genetic) or caused by a variety of factors that damage the liver, such as viruses, alcohol use or even obesity.
Your liver does a lot of things that keep you healthy. It turns nutrients into chemicals your body needs. It filters out poisons. It helps turn food into energy. So when your liver doesn’t work well, that can affect your whole body.
Signs and symptoms of liver disease include:
- Skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice).
- Abdominal pain and swelling.
- Swelling in the legs and ankles.
- Itchy skin.
- Dark urine colour.
- Pale stool colour, or bloody or tar-coloured stool.
- Chronic fatigue.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Loss of appetite.
Here are some of the most common liver infections:
- Hepatitis A. Most people get it by eating or drinking something that’s tainted by faecal matter. You might not have any symptoms. It usually goes away by itself within 6 months without any long-term harm.
- Hepatitis B. You get it from somebody else, such as through unprotected sex or taking drugs with shared needles. If it lasts longer than 6 months, it makes you more likely to get liver cancer or other diseases.
- Hepatitis C. comes from infected blood that gets into your blood. You might get it if you take drugs with shared needles or in connection with HIV. Symptoms may not show up for many years.
Immune System Problems:
Your immune system fights off invaders including bacteria and viruses. But it might go wrong and attack one or more parts of your body, such as your liver.
- Autoimmune hepatitis inflames your liver. It can lead to other disorders and even liver failure.
- Primary biliary cholangitis attacks tiny tubes in your liver called bile ducts. They carry bile, a chemical that helps you digest food. When the ducts are injured, the bile backs up inside your liver and scars it.
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis scars your bile ducts, and it can eventually block them. The bile builds up inside your liver, and that makes it harder for your liver to work. It may lead to liver cancer, and you might someday need a liver transplant.
Cancer and Tumours:
If cancer shows up in your liver, that’s most likely because it has spread from another part of your body, like your lungs, colon, or breasts. But a few cancers can start in the liver.
- Liver cancer affects women more often than men. It is medically called as hepatocellular carcinoma. It’s more likely if you have hepatitis or drink too much.
- Bile duct cancer strikes the tubes that run from your liver to your small intestine to carry bile, a fluid that helps you digest food.
Here are a list of few inherited liver disorders:
- Hemochromatosis makes your body store up too much of the iron from your food. The extra iron builds up in your liver, heart, or other organs. It can lead to life-threatening conditions such as liver diseases, heart disease, or diabetes.
- Hyperoxaluria hits when your urine has too much of a chemical called oxalate. Oxalate is a natural part of your system, and your liver makes a chemical that controls it. If your liver makes too little of that chemical, oxalate builds up. Then it can cause kidney stones and kidney failure. If your kidneys do fail, that can give you oxalosis, where the oxalate collects in other organs and causes more trouble.
- Wilson’s disease makes copper build up in your liver and other organs. Its first symptoms usually show up when you’re between the ages of 6 and 35, most often in your teens. It not only affects your liver, but it can cause nerve and psychiatric problems.
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency involves a chemical that helps your lungs resist infections. Your liver makes it. However sometimes this faulty chemical builds up and may lead to a liver disease.
Other Causes of Liver Disease:
- Alcohol abuse can lead to cirrhosis. So can non alcoholic fatty liver disease and long-term cases of hepatitis B and C.
- Drug overdoses. Taking too much acetaminophen or other medications can harm your liver.
- Non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is when too much fat has built up inside your liver. The extra fat can inflame your liver. It can scar your liver and lead to other disorders, like cirrhosis.
Complications of liver disease:
- Acute liver failure. This happens when you don’t have a long-term liver disease but your liver quits working within a very short time — days or weeks. That may happen because of an overdose of acetaminophen, infections, or because of prescriptions drugs.
- Cirrhosis is a build up of scars in your liver. The more scars replace the healthy parts of your liver, the harder it is for your liver to do its job. Over time, it may not work like it should. This may require a liver transplant.
Here are a few tips to prevent liver disease:
- Drink alcohol in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.
- Avoid risky behaviour. Get help if you use illicit intravenous drugs, and don’t share needles used to inject drugs. Use a condom during sex. If you choose to have tattoos or body piercings, be picky about cleanliness and safety when selecting a shop.
- Get vaccinated against Hepatitis.
- Use medications wisely. Take prescription and non prescription drugs only when needed and only in recommended doses. Don’t mix medications and alcohol.
- Avoid contact with other people’s blood and body fluids. Hepatitis viruses can be spread by accidental needle sticks or improper cleanup of blood or body fluids.
- Take care with aerosol sprays. Make sure the room is ventilated, and wear a mask when spraying insecticides, fungicides, paint and other toxic chemicals.
- Protect your skin. When using insecticides and other toxic chemicals, wear gloves, long sleeves, a hat and a mask.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can cause non alcoholic fatty liver disease.
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