The liver is the second largest organ of the body, about the size of a football, lying just under the rib cage at the right side of the abdomen. It performs several important functions such as fighting infections and diseases, removing toxins from the body, controlling fat level of the body by releasing the bile, helping blood to clot, and aids in digestion by breaking down complex molecules into simple forms.
Liver disease is a group term for a vast range of diseases, which can damage the functioning of the liver.
How Prevalent is Liver Disease?
Sixty to seventy million people are affected on average with the digestive disorder. Almost 8,000 patients are waiting for liver transplants.
Factors Responsible for Liver Disease
There are multiple reasons for liver damage such as:
Infection: Viral infection can damage the liver cells, cause inflammation and reduce its functional capacity. These viruses are known to gain entry in to the liver through the blood stream or semen. Some of the common viral diseases damaging the liver are Hepatitis A, B, and C.
Autoimmunity: There are certain autoimmune conditions, where the body’s own immune system can attack liver cells to damage its functional outcomes, e.g., autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, etc.
Genetics: A genetic manipulation may lead to abnormal liver damage due to accumulation of various substances in the liver. This may ultimately cause a major liver problem such as hemochromatosis or Wilson’s Disease.
Cancer Growth: The cancerous degeneration of liver cells may affect functioning of the liver.
Apart from the factors stated above, there are certain things which are part of one’s daily routine and are to be avoided:
- Increased salt intake
- Artificial nutritional supplements
- Overuse of medications
- Inappropriate use of medications
- Long term exposure to pesticides and fertilizers
Symptoms Associated with Liver Disease
The liver is the primary organ of the digestive system and there are almost 100 different types of liver diseases affecting men, women and children in equal proportions. The liver is involved in performing up to 500 different functions in the body. Any type of damage to the liver can cause a major obstruction to these functions. Most liver problems express the same symptoms with some minute variations. Some of the common signs and symptoms are:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal Pain
- Distension of abdomen
- Swelling of lower limbs
- Weight Loss
- Weakness and fatigue
- Yellow discoloration of the skin.
- Prognosis associated with liver diseases
It’s important to find out the cause and severity of the liver damage to confirm the diagnosis. Some of the common diagnostic tests suggested are:
- Liver function tests
- CT scan and imaging
- Biopsy analysis
Some liver problems can be treated with lifestyle modifications such as avoiding alcohol abuse, smoking and oily food. Some can be treated with surgery or technically advanced treatments such as stem cell therapy.
What Goes Wrong with Liver Disease?
In chronic liver diseases, the liver is exposed to damage for very long periods of time and liver cell loss takes place. Since the liver damage is so large, the normal repairing processes of the liver are insufficient to take care of the damage. Thus, slowly and progressively, the function of the liver is severely hampered.
The only available treatment with chronic liver diseases is liver transplant; however, the demand is more than the supply. The procedure is expensive and it’s hard to find a suitable match.