Liver Facts & Health
The liver is a large, organ seated to the right of the belly & weighs about 3 pounds. It is reddish-brown in colour & feels rubbery to the touch. The liver is a complex organ whose primary function is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before it goes to the rest of the body. The liver also detoxifies chemicals & breaks down drugs. The liver also secretes bile, and proteins important for blood clotting & other functions. We usually can't feel the liver, because it's safe under the rib cage.
Hepatitis: Viruses such as hepatitis A, B, and cause the inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis may also occur due to heavy drinking, obesity drugs, or allergic reactions.
Cirrhosis: Permanent scarring due to long-term damage to the liver from any cause is called cirrhosis. The scarring prevents the liver from functioning normally.
Liver cancer: Hepatocellular Carcinoma is the most common type of liver cancer that develops after cirrhosis occurs.
Liver failure: Many causes including infection, genetic diseases, and excessive alcohol may lead to liver failure.
Ascites: Due to cirrhosis, fluid (ascites) from the liver leaks into the belly making it distended & heavy.
Gallstones: Hepatitis and bile duct infection (cholangitis) may result when a gallstone blocks the bile duct that drains the liver.
Hemochromatosis: Iron deposits in the liver damage it, causing Hemochromatosis. The iron may also settle throughout the body, leading to multiple other health problems.
Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis: Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis is a rare disease that causes inflammation & scarring in the liver's bile ducts. The disease has no known cause.
Primary Biliary Cirrhosis is a rare disorder that gradually destroys the liver's bile ducts, resulting in cirrhosis (permanent liver scarring).
Symptoms of Liver Damage
The early symptoms of liver damage/failure are frequently those that are seen in other diseases/ conditions as well. Due to this, liver failure could be difficult to diagnose in the early stages.
Loss of appetite
As liver damage progresses, the symptoms become life-threatening:
Mental disorientation or confusion (known as hepatic encephalopathy)
Treatment Acute Liver Failure caused by an overdose of acetaminophen can be treated if detected in its early stages & its effects can be treated.
In case of a virus, liver failure can be treated with supportive care until the virus runs its course. In many cases, the liver may recover on its own.
When the liver fails due to long-term deterioration, the early treatment may be to save whatever part of the liver that still functions. If saving the liver isn't possible, then a liver transplant is required. Fortunately, liver transplants are often successful.
Preventing Liver Damage
Hepatitis A, B, C, D vaccine or an immunoglobulin shot are effective vaccines to protect the liver.
Adopt a healthy diet that includes all the food groups: grains, protein, dairy products, fruits, vegetables and fats.
Obesity may cause Fatty Liver Disease. Maintain a healthy weight.
Moderate alcohol consumption. Avoid alcohol when you take acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Right hygiene practices prevent germs & viruses from spreading. Wash your hands thoroughly after you use the bathroom or before you touch any food.
Don't handle any blood or blood products if you aren't a trained healthcare worker.
Never share any personal toiletry items, including toothbrushes and razors.
Ensure the conditions are sanitary and all equipment is aseptic when you get a tattoo or a body piercing.