Liver disease as the name suggests is a disease that affects the liver. It is a broad term to signify the different diseases that affect the normal functioning of the liver thereby causing an illness. Liver disease is also known as hepatic disease. The liver is a vital organ of the body responsible for different bodily functions. Therefore any damage to the liver can cause a lot of harm to the human body. The liver is quite a strong organ. For the efficiency of the liver to reduce around three fourth of the liver tissues has to be damaged. The main functions of the liver include the production of bile, which helps in digestion, glucose regulation, helping the clotting of blood, regulating iron in the body, amino acid production, and cholesterol production and transforming body wastes into urea. Hepatitis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and haemochromatosis are common diseases of the liver.
The warning signs of a liver disease can range from a lot of sweating, foul body odor, red, swollen and bag-like eyes, acne, coated tongue, itchy skin and skin problems. Jaundice is another common symptom of a liver disease. Jaundice is caused due to heightened bilirubin in the body. Skin and eyes have a pale yellowish appearance. Some patients also suffer from fatigue, weight loss, nausea and vomiting. Dark urine, very pale stools, loss of bones, easy and excessive bleeding in case of an injury, enlarged spleen and a swollen gall bladder are other symptoms. These are physical symptoms of a liver disease. Digestive complications are other symptoms. Similarly blood sugar problems, abnormal fat absorption, constipation and immune disorders are yet other symptoms. Indigestion, gall stones and bloating of the stomach are other signs. Hypoglycemia and urge to have sugar and sugary foods are still other symptoms. A liver disease may also lead to Type 2 diabetes.
Patients also suffer from nervous system problems such as mood swings, depression, lack of concentration, loss of memory, headaches and migraines. A liver disease may also cause high levels of bad cholesterol, increased triglyceride levels, blockage in the arteries, fat build-up in the body. All these may cause elevated blood pressure levels, stroke and heart attacks. In some patients, hypocholesterolemia may be observed. This condition is caused by an insufficient amount of cholesterol in the body.
However, since there are different types of liver diseases, the symptoms for each type of disease may be different. At the same time some symptoms may overlap causing problems with the diagnosis. For instance, a patient having gall stones will experience pain in the abdomen, and may experience to fat and may have fever. As for liver cirrhosis patients, the symptoms gradually worsen over time. Bruising, impotence, fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity and fatigue are common symptoms of liver cirrhosis. Different diagnostic tools in the form of liver function tests exist to determine the nature and cause of the problem. The liver function tests essentially check the presence of the enzymes present in the tissues of the liver. Blood tests, liver biopsies, ultrasound, CT scans and MRI are also commonly used diagnostic methods.
Liver disease can be caused due to a lot of factors. For instance in hepatitis, cells get inflamed causing disease. Obstruction of bile flow can also cause liver problems. Increases in and accumulation of cholesterol and triglyceride can also harm the liver. If blood flow to the liver is compromised, the liver tissue gets damaged. Toxic substances, chemicals and some minerals can also increase the chances of contracting a liver disease. The biggest culprit is alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption is known to cause liver diseases. Alcohol is very toxic to the liver and can cause swelling of the liver and can kill the liver cells. In case of excessive damage to the liver cirrhosis may occur. The liver tissues get so scarred that the liver ultimately stops functioning. This is also known as a liver failure. Some medications and drugs are also believed to cause problems in the liver. A few examples are niacin, acetaminophen and statin medications.
The Hepatitis virus is another cause of a liver disease. The Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E are all viruses that can be extremely harmful to the liver. Other viruses can also cause liver maladies. Non-Alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused due to excessive at accumulation in the liver. Hemochromatosis is caused due to increased levels of iron in the body. This disease is a metabolic disorder. Wilsons disease is caused due to excessive copper build-up in the body. As for the Gilberts disease, it is abnormal metabolism of bilirubin. Cancer in the liver also causes liver diseases. It is believed that some liver diseases may be caused due to hereditary factors such as the Wilsons disease and hemochromatosis. Certain lifestyle factors also increase the risk of a liver disease. For instance, alcohol and substance abuse. Hepatitis B and Hepatits C infections are contracted through body fluids. Unprotected sex, using non-sterilised materials, etc can increase the chances of getting a liver disease caused due to a hepatitis virus. Exposure to chemicals and other toxins also increase the chances of a liver disease.
Symptoms like fatigue, sudden weight loss, jaundice, fever, vomiting, pain in the abdomen and nausea are signs that must not be ignored and the patient must seek immediate medical attention. If the person is diagnosed with a liver disease, then it is important to treat the problem immediately in order to avoid further deterioration of the problem. Each type of liver disease has a treatment specific to it. For example, a hepatitis virus infection is treated with hydration therapy. Gall stone problems require surgery. For some kinds of liver diseases medications are prescribed. In case of liver cirrhosis, medications regulating the protein are administered to the patient. In cases where a person has fluid retention in the abdominal cavity, he may need to undergo a medical procedure to remove the fluid.
Some doctors may advise a liver transplant for a chronic liver disease. Researches on how to develop medications that will help the liver tissues regenerate themselves are on in full swing. Studies on stem cell therapy for liver regeneration are also being undertaken. Home remedies such as yoga, meditation and liver detoxification are also recommended. A liver disease if diagnosed in its early stages can be treated effectively. In no case must a liver disease be ignored. In extreme cases, a liver disease can also cause death.
A diet for a patient with a liver disease essentially needs to be rich in complex carbohydrates. It also needs to have sufficient amount of proteins. For instance a person weighing 50 kilos must have 50 grams of proteins per day. Fat intake should be only moderate. Sodium intake should be minimal. The diet should be rich in Vitamins especially Vitamin B. For instance, breakfast may consist of milk, cereals, whole wheat toasts and one orange. At lunchtime the patient may have lean meat, cooked vegetables, brown rice and a salad. Dinner can consist of a salad, a couple of whole grain bread toasts and cooked fish. Fruits may be had as mid-meal snacks.
Having smaller meals is more beneficial that having three large meals and small meals can be easily digested. Oily and spicy foods must be off the diet. More so, alcohol and tobacco are a strict no no. Coffee, tea and carbonated drinks may be had only minimally. Processed foods must also be avoided. Detox veggies such as sprouts, cabbage, tomatoes, beans, and beetroot should be had in large quantities. Bitter gourd and drumstick are also known to be very beneficial. Buttermilk must replace curd. Garlic is another food used as a home remedy for liver disease. Carrot juice, spinach juice and cucumber juice may also be had regularly.
Liver disease can be prevented by following the right lifestyle and diet. Vaccinations that protect from Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B are widely available. Weight control, giving up smoking and alcohol, exercising regularly and a well-balanced diet will reduces the chances of developing a liver disease. Awareness about liver diseases must be increased. The causes and the complications of a liver disease need to be highlighted. The medications that lead to a liver disease also need to be stopped or their intake must be controlled and minimal. For instance, an overdose of acetaminophen or Tylenol will invariably cause a liver failure. Therefore one must never indulge in self medication.
Coping with a liver disease may not be that simple. The patient needs to rigorously follow his treatment schedule. Family and friends need to be extremely supportive with a liver disease patient. As with any illness, a liver disease can be very distressing. Counseling and psychotherapy can be given to patients with a liver disease as often a physical illness causes a lot of stress and make the mental well-being go for a toss. Having a positive outlook and managing the disease well is essential for effective treatment.