Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Liver is one of the most essential organs of the body. A normal liver weighs around 1.2 to 1.5 kilograms. Liver is responsible for a number of chemical reactions that takes place inside your body for its proper functioning. The liver is also the largest gland in the human body as it secretes chemicals which are used by the other parts of the body. These reasons makes the liver both an organ and a gland; among the internal organs.

The liver, a dark reddish brown organ, is located in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen. It is beneath the right side of the diaphragm; since it is under the right lower rib cage, it is protected by it. The liver also extends to the mid line towards the left upper side of the abdomen. If the liver gets enlarged, it will further grow beyond the upper abdomen and down towards the naval or the umbilicus. The liver has two parts; a larger right lobe and a smaller left lobe.

It has rich blood supply from two different sources. The first one is the portal vein which delivers nutrient-rich blood from the gastrointestinal tract which consists of the stomach, intestine and the colon. The second comes from the hepatic artery which supplies oxygenated blood from the heart. The two lobes are made up of eight segments. Each segment is made up of thousands of lobules. These lobules are connected to small ducts which ultimately gives rise to the common hepatic duct. The common hepatic duct is responsible for transporting bile produced by the liver cells to the gallbladder and the first part of the small intestine known as the duodenum.

Functions of a Human Liver

The liver has hundreds of functions. It makes multiple chemicals that are required by the body for it function normally. Our liver helps to break down and detoxify harmful substances in our body. It also works like a storage unit. Hepatocytes, or the cells which composes the liver, are responsible for making the many proteins by the process of protein synthesis inside the body. This is very important for many functions including blood clotting factors, and the albumin, which is required to the fluid in the circulation system. The liver is also in charge of manufacturing cholesterol and the triglycerides. It is also responsible for the production of carbohydrates and it helps to convert glucose into glycogen that may be stored both in the liver and in the muscle cells. Bile, secreted by the liver, helps to break down fats, which prepares them to be further digested or to be absorbed by the body.

The liver has an important part in the process of detoxifying the body by helping to convert the ammonia which is a byproduct of metabolism. It converts the ammonia into urea which is excreted in the urine with the help of the kidneys. The liver also helps to break down medications and also clears the bloodstream of drugs and alcohol. The liver can break down insulin and other hormones in the body. Vitamins and chemicals are also stored in the liver which forms the building blocks of the body. The list includes folic acid, vitamin K to help in the clotting of blood, vitamin B12, iron which plays an important part in the production of red blood cells, vitamin D to help the process of calcium absorption by the body and vitamin A which helps in vision. The liver also helps the body to get rid of bilirubin; a build of bilirubin turns the eyes and the skin yellow.

How Can I Tell If My Liver Is Healthy?

How Can I Tell If My Liver Is Healthy?

Keeping your liver healthy is vital for your well-being. Damage to your liver can be caused from a wide range of factors. It can be inherited from a member of your family; toxicity from chemicals and viruses can cause long-term damage to it. Things which can be considered as a sign that your liver is not healthy are:

Swollen Abdominal Region- When of albumin and proteins in the blood and fluid is retained, to gives rise to the build-up of fluids in the abdomen. This is the result of liver cirrhosis which is a serious disease, which makes the patient appear to be pregnant. Swelling of ankles can also take place when the fluid is drawn down by gravity. This is treated with the help of diuretics and a reduced-sodium diet. In cases which are really severe a needle is inserted into the stomach to drain the fluid.

Jaundice- Liver damage can be identified with the most common symptom of discoloration of the skin and the eye. The skin and the whites of the eyes, turns yellow as a result of build-up of bilirubin in the body. This causes full-body itching and in rare cases loss of brain function.

Abdominal Tenderness- When the upper right corner of your abdomen pains, especially in the lower right portion of the rib cage, it is a sign of liver damage. Such pain may or may not be caused or accompanied with swelling in the abdomen or ascites. The most prevalent complaint of this pain is generally a throbbing or persistent pain in the lower abdomen region. This pain may subside through medication; on the other hand, improper medication may even lead to this pain in the first place. Liver damage may actually even be caused by non-prescribed medications especially acetaminophen and narcotic acetaminophen in combination. These medications may have severe side effects, which may get adverse with alcohol consumption.

Urine Changes- Your urine may become dark yellow due to the accumulation of bilirubin in the blood stream, this may be caused because the damaged liver is incapable of eliminating the excess bilirubin through the kidneys. Uncontrolled reflexes, eye movements and seizures may also serve as indicators of chronically high bilirubin levels in the blood.

Irritated Skin- Damaged liver may lead to itchy skin accompanied with flaky rash all over the body. Such skin irritations are a product of a lack of fluid flow in the body which reflects on the skin in the form of rough, itchy patches of skin rash. Along with this, the skin may also develop a general yellow tinge. Such changes may lead to unusually dark or white patches of skin that are also unevenly distributed.

Stool Changes- Liver damage may also lead to bowel changes that might be manifested in any of these three ways: change in the color of stool, you may have constipated bowel movement, you bowel movement might be irritable. These symptoms are generally undetected and people generally avoid these and pay no heed to these.

Nausea- Digestive problems like acid reflux and indigestion may lead to vomiting attacks. This is the reason, persistent and unexplained bouts of vomit have been considered as a very pressing sign of liver damage. Patients, who have liver damages, generally have such vomiting attacks mostly because of the body's inability to process and eliminate toxins.

Loss of Appetite- When liver damages are left unmanaged they may lead to liver diseases. Persistent signs of liver damage are loss of appetite, which will lead to rapid and unhealthy loss of weight. This is hence considered to be another sign of liver damage. People who have liver that are so degenerated may find themselves to be so weak and ill that they are barely able to eat food.

Fluid Retention- If the liver is severely damaged it may also lead to fluid retention in the ankles, legs and feet. The impaired liver makes it impossible to circulate the protein consumed to all parts of the body, which results in fluid retention in the lower part of the body because the pull of the gravity is generally in that direction.

Exhaustion- If the liver damage becomes so severe that it ultimately leads to liver failure, and then chronic fatigue, mental and muscular weakness, memory loss, confusion and eventually even coma may occur. It has been found by researchers that a telltale sign of liver damage, which is common in all patients is that they feel exhausted and fatigued at all times.

How to Keep My Liver Healthy?

Keeping your liver healthy is more about abstaining from poor health that particularly having something that is especially enriching for the liver. As a general guideline, the abstinence from alcohol or consuming alcohol to a limited amount is very important. Besides, we should strive to maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes having healthy food and a balanced diet. The level of activity should be almost at par with the calorie intake. Regular exercise is fundamental in this regard. You should be aware of the prevention against viral hepatitis; a single strike of this disease is fatal to your liver. Apart from this, certain medications are particularly harmful for the liver. You should be aware of this list and make sure that you do not take too many of these medicines for a long time.

All in all, the liver is a vital organ, and we should do our best so as to maintain the condition of this organ to ensure a healthy and long life.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: June 13, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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