The liver is the largest internal organ in the body located under your rib cage on the right side of your abdomen. It is necessary for digesting food, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating toxic substances. Other than these, liver is vital for storing nutrients and producing proteins.
A liver disease can be genetic or caused by a variety of factors that damage the liver, such as viruses and persistent alcohol intake. Obesity also contributes to liver damage. Over time, damage to the liver results in scarring (cirrhosis) which can lead to liver failure- a life-threatening condition. Liver damage may also lead to hepatitis, liver tumours, and liver abscess.
Contributing factors to liver disease
- Infection: Bacteria and viruses can infect the liver leading to swelling that reduces liver function. The viruses that cause liver damage can be spread through blood, semen, contaminated food or water, or close contact with an infected individual. Common forms of liver infection are Hepatitis A, B and C.
- Immune system irregularity: Diseases in which your immune system attacks certain parts of your body can impact your liver. Such autoimmune liver diseases include autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis.
- Genetics: An abnormal gene inherited from one or both of your parents can cause liver damage. Liver diseases caused by genetics include hemochromatosis, hyperoxaluria and oxalosis and Wilson's disease.
- Cancer and other growths: Examples of liver diseases caused by cancer growth include liver cancer, bile duct cancer and liver adenoma.
Skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice)
Abdominal pain and swelling
Swelling in the legs and ankles
Dark urine colour
Pale stool colour, or bloody or tar- coloured stool
Nausea or vomiting
Loss of appetite
Tendency to bruise easily
If you have been experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms for long, you should consider visiting a doctor immediately.
Treatment for liver disease depends on your diagnosis. Certain liver problems can be treated with lifestyle modifications, such as stopping alcohol use or losing weight, normally as part of a medical program that includes careful monitoring of liver function. Severe liver complications may require medications or surgery. However, a liver disease which causes liver failure may ultimately require a liver transplant.
Prevention of liver disease
There are many things which can be done to prevent liver disease. These may include:
- Limiting your alcohol intake to just one drink per day for men, women and older people. You are at great risk of damaging your liver if you drink uncontrollably.
- If you are at increased risk of contracting hepatitis or if you've already been infected with any form of the hepatitis virus, talk to your doctor about getting the hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines.
- Take medications only when needed to and in recommended doses. Never mix medications and alcohol.
- Avoid contact with other people's blood and body fluids as the hepatitis viruses can be spread by accidental needle sticks or improper clean-up of blood or body fluids.
- Maintain a healthy weight because being overweight can cause Maintain a healthy weight.