Definition: the term “liver disease or liver disease” is applied to many diseases that prevent the liver from functioning well or that impede the normal work of this organ.
Abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin or eyes ( jaundice ), or abnormal results of liver function tests suggest that you have liver disease.
Types of liver disease
Here are some specific types of liver disease:
Related to alcohol consumption – when the liver is damaged after years of alcohol abuse, this can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver).
Non-alcoholic fatty liver – an accumulation of fat inside the liver cells, usually seen in overweight or obese people.
Hepatitis – is the inflammation (swelling) of the liver caused by a viral infection or exposure to harmful substances such as alcohol.
Hemochromatosis – a hereditary disorder in which there is a gradual accumulation of iron in the body, usually around the liver.
Primary biliary cirrhosis – a rare disease, is a long-term type of liver disease that damages the bile ducts in the liver
It is important to keep in mind that all types of liver diseases can cause cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), not just liver disease related to alcohol.
Symptoms of Liver disease
- Skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice).
- Abdominal pain and swelling.
- Swelling in the legs and ankles.
- Skin itch.
- Color of dark urine.
- Pale color of the stool, or stool with blood or tar.
- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Tendency to bruise easily.
In the United Kingdom, liver disease is on the rise. Three of the main causes of liver disease are:
- Infection of undiagnosed hepatitis.
- The abuse of alcohol.
These causes of liver disease are all preventable, so it is important to make sure that:
Have a healthy weight for your height; You can use the BMI healthy weight calculator to know what your ideal weight should be.
- Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol.
- Take appropriate measures to avoid getting hepatitis, such as getting vaccinated if you are at risk.
When to seek medical attention for liver disease?
Often, the onset of a liver disease is gradual and there is no specific symptom that leads the affected individual to seek medical attention. Fatigue, weakness and weight loss that can not be explained should request a visit for a medical evaluation.
The jaundice or yellow skin is never normal and should request an assessment by a health professional.
Persistent fever, vomiting and abdominal pain should also prompt a medical evaluation as soon as possible.
Overdose of Acetaminophen or Tylenol, either accidental or intentional, can cause acute liver failure. Emergency assessment and treatment is required.
Antidotes may be provided to protect the liver, but they are effective only when used within a few hours. Without this intervention, overdose of paracetamol can cause liver failure. Symptoms only occur after potential liver damage has occurred.
Tests and diagnosis
Finding the cause and degree of liver damage is important to guide the treatment.
Your doctor is likely to start with the medical history and a complete physical examination. Your doctor may recommend the following tests:
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 problems in the liver or genetic conditions.
The image tests.
Computed tomography, magnetic resonance and ultrasound may show liver damage.
The analysis of tissues.
Removing a tissue sample (biopsy) from your liver can help diagnose liver disease.
Liver biopsy is most often done using a long needle inserted through the skin to remove a sample of tissue. Then that tissue is analyzed in a laboratory.
Treatment of Liver Disease
The treatment for liver disease depends on your diagnosis.
Some problems in the liver can be treated with lifestyle modifications, such as stopping alcohol or losing weight, usually as part of a medical program that includes careful monitoring of liver function.
Other liver problems can be treated with medications or may require surgery.
Treatment for liver disease that causes liver failure may ultimately require a liver transplant.
Each liver disease will have its own specific treatment regimen. For example, hepatitis A requires care to maintain hydration while the body’s immune system fights and resolves the infection.
Patients with gallstones may require surgery to remove the gallbladder. Other diseases may need long-term medical attention to control and minimize the consequences of your illness.
In patients with cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease, medications may be required to control the amount of protein absorbed in the diet.
The liver affected by cirrhosis may not be able to metabolize the waste products, resulting in elevated levels of ammonia in the blood and hepatic encephalopathy (lethargy, confusion, coma).
In those patients with large amounts of ascites fluid (fluid accumulated in the abdominal cavity), excess fluid can be removed occasionally with a needle and a syringe (paracentesis).
With local anesthesia, a needle is inserted through the abdominal wall and the fluid is removed. Ascites fluid can spontaneously become infected and paracentesis can also be used as a diagnostic test for infection.
Operations may be required to treat portal hypertension and minimize the risk of bleeding.
Liver transplantation is the final option for patients whose livers have failed.
With the exception of gallstone disease and some viral infections such as hepatitis A, C and infectious mononucleosis, most liver diseases are treated and not cured.
Liver disease can progress to cirrhosis and liver failure. Associated complications may include increased risk of bleeding and infection, malnutrition and weight loss, and decreased cognitive function.
Some liver diseases are associated with an increased risk of developing liver cancer.
Can Hepatopathy be prevented?
Alcohol abuse is the most common cause of liver disease in North America. Drinking alcohol in moderation can help minimize the risk of alcohol-related liver disease.
The risk of contracting Hepatitis B and C can be reduced by minimizing the risk of exposure to another person’s bodily fluids.
Vaccination is available for hepatitis A and B.
The detection of Hepatitis C is recommended in some populations.
Fatty liver disease is a preventable disease with the promotion of a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, weight control, avoid excessive consumption of alcohol and a routine exercise program.
These lifestyle modifications do not guarantee success in disease prevention because some people will develop a fatty liver disease even with maximized lifestyle practices.
What is the prognosis for a patient with liver disease?
The prognosis and outcome for a patient depend on the underlying diagnosis.
Interestingly, in patients with cirrhosis , there may be little correlation between the amount of damage found in the liver biopsy and the final result. A patient may never develop symptoms and have a normal lifespan or may develop significant symptoms with a seemingly minimal illness.