Liver problem, Liver disease – an overview
The liver is a vital organ and works in synchronisation with the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys etc. and is the second-largest organ in the body. Liver disease can be due to obesity, alcoholism, genetic factors, virus attacks etc., which develop slowly and manifest as acute liver failure, jaundice, cirrhosis of the liver etc. The American Liver Foundation states that:
●Alcoholic hepatitis occurs with scarring, inflammation and fat deposits in the liver and can be found in 35% of heavy drinkers.
●Alcoholic cirrhosis is the advanced form of liver cirrhosis and affects 10-20% of heavy drinkers.
The various stages of liver failure are:
●Enlargement and inflammation of the liver.
●Scarring or Fibrosis occurs.
●Cirrhosis sets in when the liver function stops functioning correctly.
●ELSD or End-stage liver disease when a majority of the liver malfunctions and needs a liver transplant.
●Liver cancer may also set in.
Liver disease can take many forms. They are
●Acute: Here, the liver functions stop in weeks or days, and most patients have no liver problems or diseases preceding this event. E.g., Drug overdoses, mushroom poisoning, too much Tylenol or acetaminophen.
●Chronic: It is a chronic liver disease occurring over a long period of time and causes liver failure. E.g., Liver cirrhosis. Such alcohol-related liver failure may be fatty liver disease.
●AFLD- Alcoholic fatty liver disease: It results from fat deposits in the liver due to alcoholism and obesity.
●Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: It also results from fat deposits in the liver unrelated to alcoholism.
Liver Disease Causes:
Liver disease, liver failure or hepatic failure of the fulminant type can be caused by
●Overdose of Acetaminophen.
●Viruses like Epstein-Barr virus, Hepatitis A, B and E, the herpes simplex or cytomegalo viruses.
●Reactions to herbal medications, certain medications, mushrooms (Ex: Amanita phalloides) etc.
●Wilson’s disease or copper build up in the liver.
●Acute fatty liver of pregnancy (Rare).
●Septicemia or septic shock.
●Budd Chiari syndrome blocking the liver blood vessels.
●Industrial toxins ingestion (Ex: Carbon tetrachloride).
Other liver disease causes include
●Primary sclerosing cholangitis of the bile ducts mostly in young men.
●Oxalosis meaning the kidneys can’t rid themselves of calcium oxalate crystals.
●Antitrypsin deficiency Alpha-1 a genetic lung disease.
●Liver cancer/ adenoma
●Fatty liver disease
●Alagille syndrome a genetic disease with fewer bile ducts.
●PBC- Primary biliary cholangitis
●Galactosemia or intolerance to sugars like galactose.
●LAL-D or Lysosomal acid lipase deficiency used to break down fats.
Chronic liver disease causes include:
●Alcohol consumption leading to cirrhosis.
●Genetic Hemochromatosis or iron build-up.
Liver disease symptoms:
The symptoms of liver disease may include some or all of the below.
●Weakness and fatigue.
●Weight loss without trying.
●Lack of appetite.
●Bruising /bleeding easily.
●Swelling in abdomen (Ascites) and legs.
●Yellowing of eyes and skin (jaundice).
●Severe itching and daytime sleeping.
●Nose bleeds, hair loss, clubbing of fingers.
●White nails, spider veins showing below the skin and redness of palms.
Other common liver disease symptoms are
●Loss of memory or concentration issues.
●Enlarged spleen and abdomen
●Bone diseases causing brittleness and fractures
●Lack of sex drive.
●Shrinking of testicles.
●Breasts development (Gynecomastia).
●Stopping of periods.
●Lack of sex drive.
Note: Midas Hospitals recommends that the symptoms should never be self-diagnosed, and a proper diagnosis and treatment recommended by a team of gastroenterologists and physicians.
How is liver disease diagnosed?
Liver disease treatment and procedures to detect liver disease include
Physical Exam: The doctor generally will check symptoms, alcohol consumption, medical history and medications taken. The physical examination of your belly may involve checking for pain, swelling and tenderness by applying hand pressure on the belly region.
Blood tests to assess liver disease treatment maybe for
●Prothrombin clotting time
●Anaemia, RBC, blood picture and haemoglobin levels.
●ALT- Alanine transaminase and AST- Aspartate transaminase tests
●Stool test of faecal occult blood test
Imaging tests: Permit the doctor to see what happens to the liver and may include
●PET/ CT scans of the abdomen
●Upper Gastric Tract endoscopy.
Needle biopsy: A small tissue sample is used to detect cancers etc., through the neck’s transjugular vein or an endoscope.
Medications and treatment
Your treatment, medications and care depend on the liver injury and underlying causes.
Surgery and liver transplantation are the only options of liver disease treatment if liver failure is due to cirrhosis or long-term damage.
To protect the healthy liver cells, what you can do is
●Use condoms for sex.
●Never share intravenous needles, experiment with herbal medications, wild mushrooms etc.
●Stop smoking/drinking right away.
●Get shots for Hepatitis A/B, pneumonia and flu.
●Practice good hand hygiene and sanitation.
●Ensure your tattoo procedures are sanitised and safe.
●Obese people should lose weight.
●Drink sufficient fluids to prevent dehydration.
●Eat sufficient proteins. Use a high-calorie, high-protein diet with limited salt and sugar intake.
Midas Hospitals suggests you consult a doctor urgently if you observe any of these liver disease symptoms:
●Jaundice symptoms of yellow eyes and skin.
●Bloody stools or brownish urine.
●Blood in the vomit (Hematemesis).
●Blood clotting issues.
●Severe constipation, no micturation and impaired bowel movements. (Kidney issues)
●Confusion, tiredness and daytime sleeping (Cerebral Oedema symptoms)
●UTI or infections of the upper tract, pneumonia etc.
Note: These conditions are serious, and if you notice them in your child Medica Hospitals recommends that you consult a doctor right away.
If you have any or all of the liver disease or failure symptoms mentioned, approach the doctors in Midas Hospitals for liver function evaluation and treatment. Stick to the cessation of smoking and liquor to prevent further inflammation and never self-medicate.
What is a liver disease called in medicine?
Hepatic or Liver diseases cause damage/ disease and also lead to complications like liver failure, cirrhosis, liver cancer etc.
Is liver disease a serious ailment?
Most liver diseases progress over a period of time. Sometimes jaundice, acute liver failure, hepatitis etc., can develop fast and are life-threatening.
What happens if my liver shuts down?
Liver diseases may progress slowly, leading to sudden liver failure or impaired liver functioning. If the liver is diseased, it also leads to malfunction of other vital organs like the brain, kidneys, heart etc.
Can you have a fatty liver and live?
Most times, fatty liver NAFLD patients live normal lives with improvements in weight management, better diets, sufficient exercise and a healthy lifestyle.
How do I do a liver detox?
Several things help your liver detox.
● Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol.
● Get adequate sleep.
● Drink plenty of water and green tea.
● Avoid sugar, salty and processed foods.
● Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is antioxidant-rich.
● Try probiotics.
● Be mindful of exercising and stay active.