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A Guide to Understanding Liver Disease

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A Guide to Understanding Liver Disease

Gastro Sciences | by Dr. Somnath Mukherjee | Published on 09/01/2024



Introduction

Do you tend to bruise easily or experience abdominal pain and swelling often? If yes, then you must get yourself checked for liver disease. These symptoms are often because of the growing liver disease. The liver is a metabolic powerhouse in the human body, playing an important role in maintaining overall health and well-being. However, unfortunately, due to constant lifestyle changes and hectic work-life schedules, the cases of liver diseases are growing rapidly. It has become a concern nowadays, affecting millions of people across the globe.

If you suspect that you might have liver disease, make sure to book your appointment with one of the best multispecialty hospitals in Kolkata, named The Calcutta Medical Research Institute. The qualified and highly experienced healthcare professionals will ensure the proper diagnosis and treatment solution that’s suitable for you.

Additionally, in this blog, we will try covering everything related to liver diseases like their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options. Please note that this write-up is for informative purposes and we do not promote overlooking the doctor’s consultation in any way.

What is Liver Disease?

The human liver is a large and strong organ performing a countless number of important functions in the body. One of the primary functions is to filter out all the toxins from the blood. Since the liver functions as a filter, it becomes susceptible to the toxins in its processes even if it is well-resourced for the job. Excessive toxins lead to overpowering your resources and efficiency to function properly. This can take place for a while or might continue for life.

When healthcare experts mention liver disease, they are often denoting chronic conditions that are progressing and damaging the liver over time. The liver has amazing regenerative powers, however, but continuous functioning actively to reinstate itself sometimes takes a toll, and it ends up not keeping up.

What are the main stages of Liver Disease?

Liver disease progression is roughly categorized into four stages that include:

  • Hepatitis: It is an inflammation in the liver tissues which is a liver’s response to the toxins or any injury. Chronic hepatitis leads to hyperactive healing causing fibrosis.
  • Fibrosis: It is a slow liver stiffening as thin bands of scar tissue slowly combine. Scar tissues cause a reduction in the blood flow through the liver declining its access to nutrients and oxygen. Due to this, the vitality of the liver begins to reduce.
  • Cirrhosis: It is serious and permanent liver scarring. In this stage, it is almost difficult to reverse fibrosis. The tissues can’t regenerate when the liver doesn’t have sufficient healthy cells to function. However, it can still be stopped or slowed down the damage at this stage. This stage affects the liver function, but the body will try to compensate for the loss, hence it becomes unnoticeable initially.
  • Liver failure: This stage begins when the liver cannot function properly to fulfill the body’s requirements. It is also referred to as decompensated cirrhosis. The body also cannot in any way compensate for the damages. As liver function begins deteriorating, the effects become quite noticeable throughout the body. Chronic liver failure is a slow process but is life-threatening without a liver transplant.

What are Liver disease symptoms?

It is hard to notice liver disease symptoms initially but they do happen and it is important not to overlook them. Here are some of the common symptoms of liver disease:

  • Ankles and leg swelling
  • Pale stool color
  • Itchiness in the skin
  • Regular abdominal pain and swelling
  • Yellow skin and eye, jaundice is a common sign
  • Dark urine color
  • Appetite loss
  • Easily bruising
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chronic fatigue

What are Liver Disease causes?

More than a hundred types of liver disease are there, however, they plunge into a handful of subtypes. Here are some of the main liver disease causes:

  • Alcohol abuse: Heavy and regular use of alcohol leads to chronic or acute hepatitis. It causes cirrhosis or liver failure
  • Viral infections: Chronic viral hepatitis infections lead to hepatitis B and hepatitis C
  • Fatty liver disease: Metabolic conditions that are related to obesity, high blood sugar, and blood lipids lead to fat storage excessively in the liver causing inflammation
  • Toxic hepatitis: Severe overexposure to toxins like drugs or industrial chemicals causes chronic hepatitis
  • Autoimmune diseases: These conditions cause severe inflammation and scarring in the liver or bile ducts such as primary biliary cholangitis, autoimmune hepatitis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis.
  • Inherited metabolic disorders: These disorders involve glycogen storage disease, Wilson disease, Gaucher disease, hemochromatosis, etc. cause severe liver damage.
  • Cardiovascular diseases: These conditions cause liver damage affecting the blood flow to and from the liver. It involves Budd-Chiari Syndrome, arterial diseases, right-sided heart failure, and arterial diseases.

How is Liver disease diagnosed?

A healthcare expert checking for liver disease will start by physically assessing the patient. They check for noticeable signs and ask about the patient’s symptoms. They also gain information related to the patient’s diet, lifestyle, and health history including medical history. Once the information is obtained, following tests and imaging scans are prescribed to diagnose liver diseases. Here are these tests:

  • Blood tests: The liver function tests panel helps in identifying the signs, severity, and liver failure. Blood tests also benefit in measuring liver enzymes, proteins, and bilirubin levels in the blood. They also show signs of inflammation, side effects, or particular diseases.
  • Imaging tests: These tests involve abdominal ultrasound, CT scan, and MRI indicating the liver’s shape, size, and texture. It helps in determining the signs like fibrosis, growth, and swelling.
  • Elastography: It is a special test type used for liver diagnosis. With the use of MRI or ultrasound technology, it becomes easier to assess the stiffness level or fibrosis in the liver.
  • Endoscopy: To view the biliary tract, the healthcare provider might involve endoscope imaging through a tiny camera through the upper gastrointestinal tract.
  • Nuclear medicine imaging: This test assists in highlighting the areas that are not working normally through the use of a liver and spleen scan with a gamma camera.
  • Liver biopsy: It is a minor procedure performed for a small tissue sample from the liver to identify cancer or cirrhosis and understand the cause.

What are the options available for Liver disease treatment?

Most types of liver diseases have particular clinical treatments. For instance, antivirals help in treating viral hepatitis, whereas corticosteroids and immunosuppressants cure autoimmune illnesses. In the majority of cases, with constant lifestyle changes liver diseases can be reversed. One of the best ways is to reduce the toxic burden on the liver as it is essential for most liver disease types and also for people with excess fat storage, alcohol addiction, and other toxins.

Early diagnosis is an important step to treat liver disease effectively before it damages the body permanently. Regrettably, not every patient is lucky enough to detect liver disease initially so that it can be reversed. If you are diagnosed with liver failure or cirrhosis, you might require further treatments for complications such as portal hypertension or liver cancer. However, the only option often is a liver transplant, recovery becomes difficult with cirrhosis or liver failure.

Here are certain lifestyle changes that can help in reversing liver diseases:

  • Make sure to quit alcohol
  • Don’t involve red meats, trans fats, food items containing processed and high-fructose
  • Make sure to exercise daily for 30-60 minutes daily
  • Focus on maintaining your weight by cutting down your calories by 500-1000 calories/ day

Conclusion

The liver plays an important role in maintaining the overall well-being or health of humans. When it gets sick, it hugely impacts the body in numerous ways. The effects on the liver are not noticed until they become serious or complicated or reach an advanced stage. It is essential to be mindful of the things that can cause harm and try to avoid them. Make sure to go for frequent health check-ups so that if there are any risks of liver disease, it can be reversed initially. You don’t have to be apprehensive if diagnosed with liver disease, all you need to do is work with your doctor and follow recommended lifestyle changes.

FAQ

 

Where is the liver in the body?

The position of a liver is in the abdominal cavity’s upper-right hand portion under the diaphragm on the kidneys, intestines, and stomach. It appears like a cone and is a dark-red brown organ weighing around three kilometers.

How do you know if the liver is healthy?

You must notice the color of your urine if it is dark and your bowel movements are irregular, you must understand that the liver is not functioning correctly.

What happens if the liver is damaged?

A damaged liver can lead to severe complications such as bleeding and increased pressure in the brain. It is a life-threatening situation that requires prompt medical attention.