All About Liver Disease
- Published on August 12, 2022
Understanding liver disease
The liver is the second largest organ of your body, located on the right side of your abdomen, just below the rib cage. The liver helps your body digest food. It absorbs the nutrients and eliminates waste and toxic substances. These toxic substances are carried out of the body in a substance called bile.
The liver also produces various nutrients that your body needs.
Liver disease is a term used to describe different kinds of conditions that can damage your liver. It includes different liver diseases that harm the liver function and cause illness or damage.
If untreated, liver disease can result in scarring and even liver failure, where the liver can no longer function normally.
Symptoms of liver disease
Liver disease does not always cause visible symptoms. However, when symptoms do appear, they may include:
- Pain in the abdomen or swelling
- Swollen legs or ankles
- Dark urine colour
- Pale stool colour or bloody stool
- Easy bruising
- Viral Infections
Early symptoms of liver disease include:
- Pain in the abdomen or swelling
Symptoms also vary between different types of liver disease, such as fatty liver disease and chronic liver disease.
Fatty liver disease symptoms include:
- Pain in the abdomen, feeling heavy on the right side of the abdomen
- Nausea, reduced appetite, or reduced weight
- Jaundice (skin and eyes take on a yellowish appearance)
- Swelling of the abdomen and legs
Chronic liver disease symptoms include:
- Fluid buildup in the belly (ascites)
- Throwing up blood
- Itching skin
- Kidney failure
- Easy bruising
- Loss of weight
When to see a doctor?
If you experience persistent symptoms of liver disease, then make sure to see a doctor at the soonest. Especially in the case of severe symptoms such as serious abdominal pain, make sure to see a doctor.
Causes of liver disease
The causes of liver disease include different factors based on the condition that is affecting your liver. These causes include the following:
- Viral or parasitic infections
Parasites and viruses can cause infection. These infections include hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, which are viral diseases that affect liver function. The infection causes inflammation in the liver that affects liver function.
- Autoimmune diseases
These are diseases in which your immune system starts to attack certain parts of your body, and this affects your liver. These include autoimmune hepatitis and primary biliary cholangitis.
- Genetic factors
An abnormal gene inherited from your parents can cause an inherited liver disease such as Hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease.
- Cancer and growths
When abnormal cells develop and start to multiply and spread in the body, this can lead to liver cancer and bile duct cancer, along with tumours. Another growth on the liver which is not cancerous is known as a liver adenoma.
- Other factors
Other factors include alcohol addiction, a buildup of fat deposits in the liver (fatty liver disease), and certain medications.
Treatment of liver disease
Treatment for liver disease will differ based on the specific condition that is affecting your liver. Liver disease treatment includes the following:
- Medications to treat viral infections or inherited conditions
- Lifestyle changes for fatty liver disease and alcohol-related liver disease, such as reducing consumption of alcohol and adjusting your diet
- Liver transplant – in case of liver failure, your liver can be replaced with a healthy replacement
Complications of liver disease
Complications of liver disease differ based on what is causing the liver problem. Certain kinds of liver disease may bring a greater risk of developing liver cancer. Others may damage your liver and lead to scarring or cirrhosis, where the scar tissue replaces the healthy liver tissue.
Over time, the liver loses all its healthy tissue. Untreated liver disease can eventually lead to liver failure as the liver loses its ability to function. Life expectancy with fatty liver disease is also reduced.
The liver is the detoxifier of the body. It removes harmful chemicals that can affect different parts of the body. The liver plays an important role in regulating hormones in the body.
A damaged or under-functioning liver affects the hormonal balance in the body. This can affect the reproductive system and fertility in men and women, as it affects the production of sex hormones.
Liver problems can also allow harmful chemicals to enter the body and affect the functioning of reproductive organs and fertility.
Prevention of liver disease
Some steps you can take to prevent liver disease include:
- Drink alcohol in moderation
Alcohol puts a lot of strain on the liver. Moderate alcohol consumption is a good way to prevent liver disease.
For adults, excessive drinking would be approximately more than eight drinks a week for women and 15 drinks a week for men.
- Take the hepatitis vaccination
The vaccination can help reduce your chances of getting hepatitis and improve your body’s immunity against the virus.
- Be cautious with your medications
Make sure to take medications that are necessary and in the prescribed doses.
- Be cautious about exposure
Avoid exposing yourself to sources of infection such as used syringes, other people’s blood and bodily fluids.
The Hepatitis virus can spread in these ways. Use protection during sexual intercourse.
- Lifestyle and diet
Maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet to minimise the build-up of fatty deposits or toxic substances. This could include reducing the consumption of high-fat foods and increasing your fibre intake.
Avoid exposure to foods that contain harmful chemicals. Maintain a healthy weight to avoid obesity, which can lead to fatty liver disease.
Liver disease develops due to different factors. It can occur as liver cancer, autoimmune diseases, and viral or other infections. It can lead to long-term complications, so it is important to treat it at the soonest.
Loss of liver function affects important bodily functions such as removing toxins and regulating hormones. It also affects your fertility and sex hormones. It is important to consider fertility testing and treatment if needed.
For the best fertility treatment and care, visit Birla Fertility and IVF or book an appointment with Dr. Vinita Das.
1. What are common liver diseases?
A list of liver diseases that commonly develop are:
- Hepatitis A, B and C (caused by a viral infection)
- Autoimmune hepatitis (an autoimmune disease)
- Primary biliary cholangitis (an autoimmune disease)
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis (an autoimmune disease)
- Hemochromatosis (a genetic disease)
- Wilson’s Disease (a genetic disease)
- Liver cancer
- Bile duct cancer
2. What important functions are affected by severe, acute, or chronic liver disease?
Some important functions that are affected by severe, acute or chronic liver disease include:
- Digestion of food and production of bile
- Elimination of toxins from the body
- Storing of glycogen and converting it to glucose when the body needs it
- Hormone regulation
- Processing of haemoglobin and storing iron
- Supplying various important nutrients to the body
- Regulating blood clotting
3. What is the last stage of chronic liver disease?
The last stage of chronic liver disease is called end-stage liver disease. It is when the liver is at the last stage of functioning. The complications may include rupturing the blood vessels, ascites (fluids collected in the abdomen) and kidney problems. It usually develops into cirrhosis.
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Dr (Prof) Vinita Das
Dr. Vinita Das is a renowned name in the ﬁeld of reproductive health. She is a Former Dean & HOD ObGyn KG Medical University, Lucknow, She has extensive international experience and has visited Infertility Units at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, Liverpool women’s Hospital, Bristol University, in UK in an exchange program. She introduced IVF in the state of UP by creating the ﬁrst IVF facility in public sector at an aﬀordable cost
Over 40 years of experience
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
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