Preventing Liver Disease
Liver disease, or hepatic disease, is any disturbance in liver function that results in illness. Typically, a condition must cause failure in three-quarters of the liver tissue before a decrease in liver function occurs. Located in the upper right portion of the abdomen, the liver is the largest solid organ in the body, and because the liver produces and secretes bile, it is also considered a gland. The liver also detoxifies nutrients that are carried from the digestive system via the portal vein and produces essential proteins, glycogen, and cholesterol.
The liver is generally able to replace damaged cells, but if enough cells are damaged, the liver's ability to perform all its tasks may be impacted. If normal liver cells are permanently replaced by scar tissue, which cannot perform liver functions, the result is a condition called cirrhosis, a late stage disease of the liver.
Causes of Liver Disease
Alcohol abuse is the most common cause of liver disease in North America. Alcohol is toxic to liver cells and can cause alcoholic hepatitis, a type of liver inflammation. When alcohol is chronically abused, fatty deposits called steatosis occur in liver cells and can cause cell malfunction. Liver disease may also occur as a side effect of certain drugs. Taking excessive amounts of acetaminophen may cause permanent liver failure. Despite being taken according to directions, statins, medications which are used to control cholesterol levels in the blood, may also cause liver inflammation.
Antibiotics, some cancer medications, and drugs that are used to treat alcoholics may also cause inflammation of the liver. Consuming certain herbal remedies and vitamins in excess may also cause cirrhosis, liver inflammation, or liver failure. Kava kava, ma-huang, comfrey, and Vitamin A are examples. Another form of liver disease is infectious hepatitis, which is a virus that can cause liver disease through infection. Hepatitis A, B, C, and D are all spread through contact with infected body fluids. Hepatitis E is spread through exposure to contaminated food or water.
Symptoms of Liver Disease
Signs of liver disease tend to include nausea, vomiting, upper right quadrant abdominal pain, jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, fatigue, and weight loss. Due to the large variety of liver diseases, symptoms which are specific to certain disease may also occur.
Depending on the type of disease, risk of developing liver disease can be greatly reduced by adopting certain lifestyle practices. Consuming alcohol in moderation my help reduce the risk of developing alcohol-related liver disease. Limiting contact with the body fluids of others reduces the risk of contracting Hepatitis B or C. Vaccines are also available for Hepatitis A and B, further reducing the risk of contracting either of the diseases. Maintaining a healthy diet, weight control, and an exercise routine may greatly reduce the likelihood of developing fatty liver disease. However, such lifestyle modifications may not prevent occurrence in people who would otherwise develop fatty liver disease.
The liver is a vital organ which serves many functions in the human body. While the liver is generally able to repair cell damage that occurs, there are many liver diseases which can impact liver function in the event that cells do not repair themselves. While there are a number of factors which may contribute to the occurrence of liver disease, fortunately there are practices which people can adopt to reduce their risk of developing certain types of liver disease.