Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

About Liver

The liver is one of the most used internal organs of the human body. According to the research faculty at the John Hopkins Institute of Medicine, the liver carries out over 500 essential functions in the human body. Liver plays a pivotal role in the process of digestion; and essentially everything that is consumed by a human being, needs to be processed and filtered by the liver. The liver aids in the production of essential nutrients. The liver also facilitates in the process of excretion of waste material from the body and performs other metabolic functions. Liver is the largest organ in the body and weighs roughly around 1.5 to 3 kilograms. Liver is situated immediately below the diaphragm to the left of the stomach and occupies much of the upper right quadrant of the abdomen.

The liver is dissected into two disproportionate lobes known as the right lobe and the left lobe. The right lobe is considerably larger in size as compared to the left lobe. A band of connective tissue forms a partition between the two lobes and keeps it affixed to the diaphragm. The liver plays a number of vital roles such as metabolizing the breakdown of products of digestion and detoxifying substances that are harmful to the body. Liver also provides important energy producing substances and disburses vital nutrients such as Iron, Copper and Vitamin B12. The liver helps in the process of manufacturing bile, which is a digestive juice which dissolves fat into watery content and is stored in the gall bladder between meals. During meals, it is squeezed out of the gall bladder through the bile ducts and into the intestines to mix with the fat in the blood.

Liver also controls the production and excretion of cholesterol and specific proteins that benefit the blood plasma. The liver also performs several other functions such as detoxification of alcohol and other toxins, storing iron, maintaining the hormonal balance, producing immune factors to combat infections and regulates blood clotting. As opposed to other organs in the human anatomy, the liver primarily has two main sources of blood: the hepatic artery and the portal veins. The hepatic artery and the portal veins, which are blood vessels, carry the blood from the gastrointestinal tract and spleen to the liver. Along the way, they pick up important nutrients and harmful toxins from the stomach and intestines for processing. The hepatic ducts and gall bladder transport the processed bile to the duodenum. The physical structure of the duodenum resembles the letter ‘C’.

When food, medicines and liquids are consumed and digested by a person, the cells within the liver that contain powerful and effective enzymes, break down the product into several toxins. Ammonia is a toxic product arising from the digestion of proteins, the liver assists in its conversion into a less toxic substance known as urea. When a person is indulging in physical activities or exercising in the gym, the liver breaks down the stored glycogen into glucose, which is released into the blood stream to be used by the muscles in the body as a source of energy.

Some Common Liver Diseases

Some Common Liver Diseases

There are several liver diseases and disorders known to man. Liver diseases may be generically inherited or may be caused due to a wide range of factors, such as viruses, toxins, obesity and excessive alcohol consumption. Some of the common symptoms related to liver diseases are drastic weight loss, fatigue, pain in the abdominal region, vomiting and nausea, swelling, itching all over the body and jaundice. Jaundice causes a yellow discoloration to the skin due to the excessive formation of a substance called bilirubin. The change in color of the skin indicates the liver is not functioning properly. Other common liver disorders include Cirrhosis, Gallstones, Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E, liver cancer, Gilbert’s syndrome, fascioliasis, Wilson’s disease and Fatty liver disease.

A more in depth analysis of the common liver diseases and its causes are illustrated below:

Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cirrhosis results in the cells residing in the liver to be substituted by fibrous tissue, it is also commonly referred to as fibrosis. Cirrhosis of liver is a liver disease which occurs due to several factors such as toxins, viruses and hepatitis, eventually diminishing the function of the liver over a period of time. Medical procedures and treatment for cirrhosis of liver disease aim to restore the functionality of the liver and prevent further damage.

Fatty Liver Disease

Fatty liver disease is a liver disease where there is excessive collection of fat on the liver and it can cause irreversible damage to the liver and may result in permanent liver damage. This liver disease is caused by two instances; firstly due to excessive consumption of alcohol; and secondly due to an unhealthy diet, genetics, and obesity and may eventually result in liver failure. There is no medication for this liver disease and the only way to reduce the risk factor of fatty liver disease is to implement a healthy lifestyle, eat healthy food and refrain from the consumption of alcohol.

Hepatitis

Hepatitis basically means inflammation of the liver, which is caused by different viral constituents. The different types of hepatitis may lead to liver failure in extreme situations.

Fascioliasis

This liver disease is caused due to a parasitic infection and restricts the liver from performing its functions, as it depletes its condition.

Iron Overload Disorder

This liver condition is caused due to the over accumulation of iron in the body where the excess iron gets stored in the liver and disrupts the liver function. Iron Overload Disorder can be caused by a genetic disorder. This disease is said to predominantly affect Norwegians.

Gilbert's Syndrome

The Gilbert’s syndrome is a liver condition, which is a genetic disorder affecting a negligible percentage of the population and may lead to occurrence of jaundice, but not on a severe level. Gilbert’s syndrome occurs when bilirubin is not effectively broken down in the body.

Liver Diseases & Its Course

In some cases the symptoms of liver disease may arise at the latter stages of the disease or may not arise at all. Complications arising from various liver diseases may differ on the basis of the cause of the disease. If the early stages of a disease go undetected, the damage to the liver becomes more severe as time progresses. It may lead to the occurrence of liver failure if it reaches a stage where it is beyond repair and treatment. In case of any liver disease, the primary agenda is to save the remaining functioning portions of the liver. Liver failure is considered to be a life threatening disease and requires immediate medical attention and intensive care. Liver failure signifies that the liver has lost or is rapidly losing its inherent functions.

In the world, around 745,000 individuals lose their life because of liver cancer and over 1 million individuals lose their lives due to liver cirrhosis on a yearly basis. There are specific remedies which directly cater to this liver disease; however, if the liver damage caused is too great then a liver transplant is the only viable option to go for. Liver transplantation is a common procedure in today’s day and age and it has a respectable success rate. The liver also possesses the amazing capability of regenerating itself. The damaged portions of the liver are restored to a certain degree by the liver itself so that it can continue to perform its mandatory functions.

How to Prevent Liver Diseases?

There are several things that can be done to minimize the chances and prevent liver diseases occurring. In order to maintain the efficiency and health of your lives, the following steps can be implemented in one’s day to day life:

Balanced Diet & Healthy Lifestyle: The foundation to maintaining a healthy and functional body revolves around the sole factor of following a set routine, which includes a certain level of physical exercise and a balanced diet which delivers all the necessary nutrients to your body. A balanced diet and healthy lifestyle goes a long way in preventing liver diseases along with other diseases. A balanced diet basically includes a substantial intake of high-quality protein, carbohydrates, unsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals as well as consuming large quantities of water during the course of the day. Implementing a balanced diet can diminish the likelihood of liver diseases and helps in promoting overall body health and functionality.

Controlled Consumption of Alcohol: Refraining from consuming copious amounts of alcohol can significantly reduce the chances of liver diseases from occurring. It is advisable to keep a limit to 3 alcoholic drinks at a time. The chemicals produced by alcohol once it disseminates can have a harmful effect on the liver over time.

Mixings Drugs & Alcohol: Consuming alcohol and prescription drugs simultaneously can result in being fatal for the liver in the long run and eventually leads to liver failure. It must be avoided at all costs.

Avoid Airborne Chemicals: In a location where the use of cleaning agents and gardening fertilizers are prevalent, it is essential to wear a mask and ensure that the area has adequate ventilation. Inhaling harmful chemicals and fumes affects the liver directly and causes it a great deal of damage.

Get Vaccinated When Travelling: It is absolutely essential to be properly vaccinated while travelling to a particular place; especially if any liver disease is predominantly present in that region.

Have Protected Sex: Having safe sex can reduce the chances of sexually transmitted diseases and also diminishes the possibility of Hepatitis C, which is a serious liver infection, from occurring.

Maintaining Proper Weight: Maintaining a healthy physique and appropriate body weight is necessary in order to avoid liver diseases. Eating junk food and consuming sugary drinks which lead to obesity must be avoided at all costs.

Conclusion

Digestion is the process by which food is processed in your body and the nutrients are distributed to the various organs. The overall health of an individual is heavily dependent on the digestive tract. Therefore, maintaining a healthy digestive system is essential for the health of the liver and other organs so that they can continue to perform their daily tasks that are vital for the overall health and wellbeing of a person.

It is essential to consult a doctor immediately if any of the symptoms pertaining to liver diseases persists, especially abdominal pain. It is advisable to visit your doctor on a regular basis to get routine tests done in order to reduce the chances of things becoming worse. It is known that any liver related disease worsens over a period of time; therefore it is essential to treat any liver disorder at its early stages in order to avoid a fatal outcome in the future. By following the healthy routine lifestyle and incorporating a balanced diet can help in reducing the chances of all diseases considerably.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: November 29, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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