Liver disease to any disorder of the liver. There are different types of liver diseases which can all severely cause damage to the overall health of the body and cause death. Liver disease is often associated with alcohol; however, it is more than just alcohol. The effects of liver disease in the body and the only way to go is through treatment. This disease can also be prevented when people are well informed about the disease itself. The liver is an organ only found in vertebrates. It detoxifies various metabolites, synthesizes proteins, and produces biochemicals necessary for digestion Liver disease is known to be the only major cause of death still increasing year-on-year. The chronic liver disease occurs throughout the world irrespective of age, sex, region or race and its manifestations vary. Liver disease is the fifth ‘big killer’ in England & Wales, after heart, cancer, stroke and respiratory disease, not to talk of larger nations like the United States, and African countries where drinking is a daily activity for many. Liver disease kills more people than diabetes and road deaths combined.
Types of Liver Disease
Cirrhosis is the scarring of the liver caused by long-term liver damage. The scarred tissue prevents the liver from working properly. Cirrhosis can eventually lead to liver failure, which can be fatal.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
The non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the accumulation of liver fat in people who drink little or no alcohol. Being overweight or obese can cause an accumulation of fat in the liver.
Alcoholic hepatitis Liver inflammation caused by drinking too much alcohol.
Hepatitis C is an infection caused by a virus that attacks the liver and leads to inflammation.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus.
Hemochromatosis is an inherited condition caused by excessive absorption of iron, leading to high blood iron levels and iron deposits in multiple joints. This disease can poison organs, including the liver.
Hepatitis B is a severe liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus that’s easily preventable by a vaccine.
Liver Disease Causes and Risk Factors
Infections are caused by viruses, viroid, prions, bacteria and nematodes. These parasites and viruses can very well infect the liver if the body is exposed to them. This will cause an inflammation that reduces liver function. The viruses can be spread through blood or semen, contaminated food or water, or close contact with a person who is infected, and the most common types of liver infection are hepatitis viruses, which are Hepatitis A, B and C.
Sometimes, these diseases are hereditary. A genetic abnormality can be inherited which can also cause a build-up of substances in the liver that can cause liver damage. Genetic liver diseases include Hyperoxaluria and oxalosis, Hemochromatosis, Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and Wilson’s disease.
Certain lifestyle choices can cause liver disease. Being in the habit of consuming large volumes of alcohol can damage your liver, therefore an alcoholic is at high risk of the disease. Also, individuals with a high-fat consumption or battle with obesity are at risk of having a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This is because their body weight can lead to the accumulation of fat in the liver and further damage it.
Various cancers and other growths also cause liver disease. This is because cancer and growths negatively affect liver function. Such cancers include liver cancer, bile duct cancer and liver adenoma.
Abnormalities in the immune system
It is possible to have a disease or diseases in which your immune system attacks certain parts of your body (autoimmune). Such diseases can affect your liver. Examples of autoimmune liver diseases include Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC), Primary sclerosing cholangitis.
Other Risk Factors
Just as there are major causes of liver disease, there are other factors considered minor which can increase the risk of having liver disease. These factors include age, Injecting drugs using shared needles, tattoos or body piercings, blood transfusion before 1992, exposure to other people’s blood and body fluids, unprotected sex, exposure to certain chemicals or toxins, diabetes, obesity and gender, because women digest alcohol differently from men.
Symptoms of Liver Disease
Symptoms are simply signs that you have a condition. Every condition, good or bad has its symptoms. With regards to some liver diseases, most people have no symptoms. However, the symptoms of liver disease may include;
- Dark coloured urine
- Pale stool colour, bloody or tar-coloured stool
- Severe fatigue
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Swelling in the legs and ankles
- Itchy skin
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- A tendency to bruise easily
Diagnosis & Treatment of Liver Disease
There are various treatments for liver diseases, however, there are also factors that determine the treatment method administered on a patient. These factors may include age, gender, the severity of liver disease, cause of liver disease, type of liver disease, overall health etc. Before a disease can be treated it must be diagnosed. A diagnosis is the identification of the nature of an illness or other problem by examination of the symptoms. Before a diagnosis, your doctor would have to go through your medical history and make a physical examination. A diagnosis of liver disease can be done in the following ways:
Blood tests: A group of blood tests called liver function tests can be used to diagnose liver disease. Other blood tests can be done to look for specific liver problems or genetic conditions.
Tissue analysis: Removing a tissue sample (biopsy) from your liver may help diagnose liver disease and look for signs of liver damage. A liver biopsy is most often done using a long needle inserted through the skin to extract a tissue sample. It is then analysed in a laboratory.
Imaging tests: An ultrasound, CT scan and MRI can show liver damage.
As aforementioned, liver disease treatment is dependent on the diagnosis. Treatment can be done through lifestyle changes such as healthy weight loss, or reduced alcohol consumption. Asides that other forms of treatment include medications and surgery.