The liver is one of the most important organs in the body as it filters toxins and other substances from the blood. As one of the key organs, it is susceptible to many illnesses and diseases. As reported by the CDC, more than 4.5 million adults in America have liver disease.
There are many different liver diseases, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), hepatitis, cirrhosis, and more. With so many types of liver diseases, many questions can arise. For instance, what are NASH symptoms? How is NASH diagnosed? What is hepatitis?
Given that there are so many liver diseases that we are prone to, it can be overwhelming to know how each can affect your lifestyle. This article will briefly summarise some of the most common liver diseases.
What is a Liver Disease?
The liver is the largest organ in the human body responsible for digesting food, processing nutrients, and filtering toxins. As such, having a healthy and fully functional liver is vital for living a healthy lifestyle. Any damage to the liver has several consequences, such as liver damage, liver cancer, and liver disease. The most common liver diseases include hepatitis, fatty liver disease, liver cancer, cirrhosis, and liver failure.
Types of Liver Diseases
Several types of liver diseases are linked to their causes. The main causes of liver diseases include:
1. Viruses-Led Liver Diseases
Certain liver diseases, such as hepatitis, are caused by a viral infection. Hepatitis causes the liver to become inflamed, which is related to several liver problems. There are five main types of hepatitis. Namely, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis D, and Hepatitis E. Each strain exhibits mild symptoms such as fever, fatigue, diarrhea, and nausea.
2. Genetics-Led Liver Diseases
Similar to other health conditions like diabetes, certain liver diseases are hereditary. These include Wilson disease (build-up of copper in the body) and Hemochromatosis (when the body retains too much iron). Both illnesses are genetic and can lead to severe liver damage, including cirrhosis.
3. Liver Diseases due to Consuming Too Many Toxins
When you consume too many toxins, such as alcohol and fat, you risk liver damage. In this case, there is the risk of two types of liver diseases:
- Alcoholic fatty liver disease can occur when you drink too much alcohol. Over time, the liver builds up too much fat and can be inflamed. This results in alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis. Both can result in the scarring of liver tissue and liver cancer.
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD): This is a liver disease associated with the build-up of fat in those who don’t drink alcohol. In some cases, NAFLD can lead to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH is a liver disease linked to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.
4. Cancer-Led Liver Diseases
Liver cancer is a severe illness when the liver cells multiply rapidly. This multiplication can be benign or malignant.
5. Liver Diseases Led Autoimmune Conditions
Autoimmune illnesses occur when the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells and organs. Common autoimmune conditions include type 1 diabetes, sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. When this occurs in the liver, it is known as autoimmune liver disease, which includes three types of diseases:
- Autoimmune hepatitis which results in liver inflammation
- Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) occurs when the bile ducts of your liver are damaged, resulting in a build-up. This can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis is a type of inflammatory condition very similar to PBC. It causes damage and a blockage to your bile duct.
Signs and Symptoms of Liver Disease
Certain liver diseases don’t have any symptoms. However, some of the common symptoms of liver disease include:
- Swelling of the legs and ankles
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Yellowish eyes and skin
Diagnosis of Liver Disease
To check if you have liver disease, you can do the following:
1. Blood Test to Diagnosis Liver Disease
The quickest way to check your liver is to do a blood test. A doctor will send you for a liver function test. This test will analyze the level of enzymes in your liver cells and the proteins in your blood. The blood test results will give the doctor an idea of the state of your liver function. Additionally, this will provide an idea of a treatment plan if you have a liver condition.
2. Image Test to Diagnosis Liver Disease
This generally involves going for an MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound. These scans will be able to detect if there is any scarring or tumours in your liver. Based on the images, a doctor can determine the severity of the liver disease if your liver is damaged.
3. Liver Biopsy to Diagnosis Liver Disease
A small sample of liver tissue is removed using a thin needle during a liver biopsy. This tissue sample is sent to a laboratory that will be able to give you an in-depth analysis of your liver. A liver biopsy can tell you if you have liver disease or are at risk of liver disease.
Everything You Need to Know About Liver Disease
Liver disease is a severe condition that can happen to anyone. It is linked to many illnesses that can lead to liver failure. Certain liver diseases are long-term and can affect how you live your life. As a result, knowing the state of your liver function, especially when you get older, is important. This article outlines some of the most common liver illnesses and the signs to look out for. If you suspect you have liver disease, it is best to visit your doctor and get treated.