Liver disease

Liver disease is also called as hepatic disease. Any damage to the liver causes liver disease. Liver is the second largest organ in the body. It is made up of hepatocytes. Liver has many important functions such as secreting bile that aid in the absorption of nutrients, detoxifying, and metabolizing drugs and alcohol.

There are several types of liver diseases which are discussed below.

  • Cirrhosis – fibrosis of the liver cells or scarring of the liver due to viruses, alcohol overconsumption, or liver toxicity; this condition can lead to chronic liver failure.
  • Hepatitis – inflammation of the liver due to viruses or other toxins.
  • Alcoholic liver disease – occurs due to excessive consumption of alcohol.
  • Fatty liver disease – occurs due to accumulation of fat in the liver cells.
  • Primary liver cancer – malignancies of liver such as hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma.
  • Hereditary diseases – for example, hemochromatosis and Wilson disease.

If the liver disease is left untreated, it leads to chronic liver failure or end-stage liver disease which is life-threatening.

Symptoms of liver disease include:

  • Jaundice (yellowish eyes and skin)
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dark urine and tarry-stools
  • Loss of appetite

Liver diseases can occur due to various causes:

Infections: Infections due to parasites or viruses. Common viruses that cause liver disease are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption leads to liver damage leading to diseases such as fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis. If the liver disease occurs due to other causes, alcohol can enhance the progression of the disease.

Other causes of liver diseases are genetics, immunity, and cancers. Exposure to chemicals and toxins, body piercings, obesity, malnutrition, sharing needles, and diabetes are the risk factors for liver disease.

Your doctor performs a thorough review of medical history and physical examination. Your doctor may also recommend tests such as:

Blood tests: Liver function tests are performed to diagnose liver disease. Other blood tests are also recommended specific to the type of liver disease.

Imaging tests: Computer tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or ultrasound abdomen is performed to identify the type of liver disease.

Biopsy: A liver tissue sample is removed for microscopical examination to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of liver disease is based on the type of liver damage or the underlying cause.

The most important management of liver disease includes abstinence of alcohol. Your doctor may also recommend you to undergo alcohol rehabilitation program or counseling depending on the severity of alcohol addiction.

Antibiotics are given if the liver damage occurs due to infections.

If there is an extensive liver damage or end-stage liver disease, your doctor may also recommend liver transplantation. This process involves replacement of the diseased liver with a healthy liver. In most of the cases, liver transplantation was successful.

Following some measures helps to prevent liver diseases:

  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Getting vaccinated
  • Not sharing syringes or needles
  • Avoiding unprotected sex
  • Avoiding contact with other’s blood and body fluids
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Performing regular physical activity