Your liver sits just under your rib cage on the right side of your abdomen. It plays an important part in digestion and gets you rid of the toxic substances in your body, and helps turn food that you eat into energy. However, like any other body organ, your liver may get infected by various diseases like Hepatitis. Most people get Hepatitis A which happens by eating or drinking something that’s tainted by fecal matter. Hepatitis B can occur due to unprotected sex or taking drugs with shared needles. You can get infected with Hepatitis C by using an infected needle, or in connection with HIV.
If you have a problem with your immune system, it can also affect the functioning of your liver. Autoimmune hepatitis inflames your liver, and may also result in liver failure. The condition is more common in women than men. When your bile ducts are injured, the bile backs up in your liver and scars it (Primary biliary cholangitis.) In another condition called primary sclerosing cholangitis, the bile builds up inside your liver, which makes it harder for your liver to work, and may eventually lead to liver cancer.
Fat buildup in your liver can lead to fatty liver disease. You have an alcoholic fatty liver disease which is caused due to heavy consumption of alcohol, while nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is caused due to other factors.
Inherited liver diseases
There are some liver diseases that you can inherit, like hemochromatosis. Your body will store too much iron from your food that can lead to life-threatening conditions like heart disease or liver disease. When you release too much chemicals through your urine, it can result in kidney stones and kidney failure. For those suffering from Wilson’s disease, copper builds up in their liver and other organs. The disease affects teenagers more often.
Dire consequences of liver diseases
Dire consequences of liver diseases include acute liver failure. This happens when your liver stops working quickly within a short period of time, days or weeks. This may happen due to infections, or some prescription drugs. Cirrhosis is a buildup of scars in your liver, the more scars you have, the harder will it be for your liver to work normally.
When to see a doctor?
You can prevent liver diseases by avoiding or limiting alcohol, avoiding foods that contain trans fats or high-fructose corn syrup, limiting the consumption of red meat, and getting regular exercise. You should see a doctor if you notice a change in your urine or stool, there is yellowing of your eyes, you feel swelling in your legs or arms, or there is consistent pain on the right side of your stomach.
Diagnosing and treating liver diseases
Liver disease can be diagnosed with blood tests that include a blood clotting test called the international normalization ratio (INR). An abnormal INR number indicates problem with your liver function. Imaging tests such as MRI and CT scans can look for signs of damage, scarring and tumors. Liver biopsy analyzes your tissue to find symptoms of liver disease. Possible treatments for liver disease include medications for viral infections like hepatitis that may be prescribed by your healthcare provider. Lifestyle changes, such as limiting fat and calories in food, and avoiding alcohol, can help in reducing the possibility of liver diseases. Liver transplant may be the only option available to people suffering from liver disease that results in liver failure.