The liver is the largest solid and internal organ in the body sits on the right side of the stomach, which is protected by the rib cage.
The liver is responsible for many important and complex functions which include:
- Manufacture (synthesize) proteins
- Produces and secretes bile (a substance needed to digest fats)
- Detoxify, by metabolizing and/or secreting, drugs, alcohol, and environmental toxins
- Stores Vitamins and iron
- Metabolize and store carbohydrates
- Stores and releases glucose
What Is Liver Disease?
Diseased or damaged liver results in the loss of critical functions and significant damage to the body which causes illness.
Generally, 75% or three-quarters of liver tissue needs to be damaged before a decrease in function takes place.
Liver disease is usually classified as either being acute or chronic.
Acute liver disease occurs when the liver is suddenly damaged. Chronic liver disease continues to affect the liver for 6 months or more.
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What Are the Early Signs and Symptoms of Liver Disease?
Both acute and chronic liver disease can interfere with the functions of the liver and thereby cause symptoms.
The good news is that the liver has a large reserve capacity, meaning it usually takes strong damage to the liver before symptoms appear.
The symptoms of liver disease may look like other health problems, so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis just to make sure.
When symptoms do appear, it can be either acute or chronic.
If your liver gets suddenly damaged, it is “acute.” Symptoms of acute liver disease are:
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin (Jaundice)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dark stools and urine
- Pain under the ribs on the right side
It’s important to note that up to 50% of people with acute liver disease have no symptoms at all.
Your symptoms may vary, depending on how severe your liver problems are.
Chronic but mild disease may not cause any symptoms at all. If symptoms do appear, it can involve but not limited to:
- Weight loss
- Muscle loss
- Loss of appetite
- Easy bruising
- Kidney failure
How Is Liver Disease Diagnosed?
If you’re concerned you might have liver disease, it’s best to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist to determine the correct diagnosis.
You’ll first be asked about your medical history including a family history of liver problems.
Next, you’ll likely be asked questions about your symptoms. You may also have tests including:
A collection of blood tests called liver function tests can be used to diagnose liver disease and identify how the liver is functioning.
Small tissue samples are taken from the liver to help diagnose liver disease and look for signs of liver damage.
X-rays can be used to look at deeper tissues within the liver in detail to diagnose several liver disease conditions.
Other tests can also be used which can include an MRI and ultrasound
Liver Disease Risk Factors and Causes
Certain causes and risk factors can increase your chances of developing either acute or chronic liver disease. This can include:
- Heavy alcohol intake
- Having unprotected intercourse
- Exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins
- Drug abuse
- Having diabetes or high cholesterol
- Sharing needles
- Having a family history of liver disease
- Being overweight
- Having high cholesterol
- Harmful supplements
- Immune disorders
- Parasites and viruses
How Is Liver Disease Treated?
Some types of acute liver disease get better on their own. For many people, liver diseases are chronic, which means it can last for many years and may never go away.
In some rare situations depending on your diagnosis, you may need surgery to remove all or part of your liver, or liver transplant surgery may also be recommended.
However, for most people, chronic liver diseases can be managed and controlled either with medications or through lifestyle changes to help keep symptoms at bay.
These might include:
- Limiting and cutting out alcohol and smoking
- Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating a liver-friendly diet which includes reducing salt, trans fats and sugar and eating more fiber. Eating a high fiber diet helps the liver to work at an optimal level.
Liver Disease FAQ
Can Liver Damage Be Reversed?
Depending on the stage and individual, yes it is. The liver is the only organ in the body that is able to regenerate.
What Is The Name of Late-Stage Chronic Liver Disease?
Cirrhosis is a late-stage liver disease.
Can Poor Nutrition Cause Liver Disease?
Except for alcohol, poor nutrition is not a cause of liver disease.
How Does Liver Disease Progress To Liver Failure?
If Cirrhosis becomes so severe that the liver can no longer function normally, the condition turns to liver failure, which is life-threatening and you may need a liver transplant.
Can Liver Disease Be Prevented?
If Someone Has Liver Disease, Are They Immediately Aware Of It?
Most of the times they are not
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY
The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.