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Gastro Science | Posted on 05/12/2020 by RBH
The liver is the largest solid organ in the body which is about the size of a football and sits exactly under the rib cage on the ride abdominal side. The essential function of the liver is to help in the digestion of food, as well as remove toxins from the body such as biochemical waste, alcohol, drugs, and environmental toxins. It also produces essential proteins and the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. Moreover, the liver turns the nutrients absorbed from the diet into substances usable by the body and stores them to later supply to the cells upon need. Thus, the liver is a very critical organ of the body and when it is compromised, a lot of health problems begin to rise.
The liver is compromised due to acquired or inherited factors that can harm the liver. With the passage of time, if the liver problems are not cured, they can cause scarring, leading to ultimate liver failure – a life-threatening problem. Hence, it is critical to protect and keep the liver healthy. Some of the general symptoms that indicate an unhealthy liver or early liver problem are:
That said, these symptoms are caused because of the underlying problem affecting the liver.
Some of the common causes of liver problems are:
Alcohol Abuse: Years of excessive drinking can cause severe liver problems and sometimes irreparable damage to the liver. Alcohol can cause inflammation and swelling in the liver, as well as also lead to scarring known as cirrhosis – which is the final stage of liver disease. Alcohol-related liver diseases (ARLD) can include problems such as fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and alcoholic cirrhosis. Symptoms of people suffering from alcohol-related liver problems include:
Smoking: Smoking is very harmful to overall health and particularly to the liver since the toxic chemicals present in tobacco lead to inflammation of the liver and eventually cause scarring of the tissue. Smoking further aggravates the production of cytokines that further increase inflammation, causing damage to liver cells. Smoking is also has been directly linked to liver cancer. Liver problems caused due to smoking show symptoms such as:
Hepatitis: Hepatitis is a condition that causes inflammation in the liver and eventually scarring, if not treated within time. It makes it difficult for the liver to function normally. Hepatitis is primarily caused due to virus infection, and in some cases can be because of an auto-immune problem or due to medicines, drugs, toxins, and alcohol. A person suffering from Hepatitis A, B, C, D, or E can develop a chronic liver problem, if not treated within time. Hence, it is important to get vaccinated against hepatitis and in case the disease still affects us, get medical help to cure the infection because if not treated within time, the hepatitis virus can cause liver failure. Also, all types of hepatitis are contagious unless vaccinated against.
Immune System Abnormalities: Immune system abnormalities such as auto-immune diseases in which the immune system starts to attack healthy parts of the body can also cause a lot of liver problems such as:
Genetics: Liver problems can also be inherited from one or both parents. A transfer of an abnormal gene from the parent to the child can result in a build-up of various foreign substances in the liver, causing liver damage. Some genetic liver problems include:
Obesity: Obesity which is excess of body fat is strongly linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This causes an increase in intrahepatic triglyceride (IHTG) content that can lead to inflammation and fibrosis. If not treated on time, obesity can cause severe progression of liver disease.
Drug Overdose: Consuming certain medications or direct substance abuse can cause liver problems that can eventually lead to damage to the liver. Medicines such as acetaminophen should be consumed as per the advice of the doctor since they can cause extreme effects on the liver.
Cancer: Cancer is another cause of liver problems. Cancer that develops in the liver is called liver cancer and if cancer develops elsewhere in the body but eventually spreads to the liver, the condition is called secondary liver cancer. Common liver cancer is a hepatocellular carcinoma that causes smalls sports of cancer in the liver. Complicated and untreated liver diseases can also cause liver cancer.
Other factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, chronic heart problems, and malnutrition, if not managed can become factors that cause liver problems.
That said, mostly all causes of liver problems can be easily prevented and in certain cases, early diagnosis of liver problems can help save a lot of damage. Hence, it is critical to maintain a healthy lifestyle and get regular health check-ups to detect any live problems early on.