Liver Disease

liver diseaseThe term “liver disease” applies to many diseases and disorders that cause the liver to either function improperly or cease functioning altogether. Common liver diseases include the following:

  • Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver slowly deteriorates and malfunctions due to chronic injury. Scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue, partially blocking the flow of blood through the liver. Scarring also impairs the liver’s ability to control infections and remove bacteria and toxins from the blood.
  • Hepatitis A is inflammation (irritation and swelling) of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus.
  • Hepatitis B is a liver infection that causes inflammation, which can lead to cirrhosis.
  • Liver tumors are masses occurring in the liver that can be either benign or malignant (cancerous).
  • Wilson’s disease is a genetic disorder that prevents the body from getting rid of extra copper. Wilson’s disease causes copper to build up in the in the body, causing organ damage.
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis, or PSC, is a disease that damages and blocks bile ducts inside and outside the liver. As a result, bile builds up in the liver and damages liver cells. Eventually, scar tissue can spread throughout the liver, causing cirrhosis and liver failure.

Risk Factors

Risk factors include heavy alcohol use, certain prescription medications, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Having Wilson’s disease can lead to other liver diseases.

Detection and Diagnosis

To diagnose liver disease, a physician may order one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Ultrasound
  • Endoscopy (physicians insert a viewing tube called an endoscope through the mouth and down into the beginning of the small intestine)
  • Liver biopsy

Treatments

Treatment for liver problems depends on your diagnosis. Some liver problems can be treated with medications. Others may require surgery. Liver transplant may ultimately be required for liver problems that cause liver failure.

Prevention

  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men.
  • Get vaccinated. If you're at increased risk of contracting hepatitis or if you've already been infected with any form of the hepatitis virus, talk to your doctor about getting the hepatitis B vaccine. A vaccine is also available for hepatitis A.
  • Choose a healthy diet. Choose a plant-based diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Limit high-fat foods.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can cause a condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which may include fatty liver, hepatitis and cirrhosis.
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