The liver is your largest internal organ and it has important responsibilities like removing toxins from your body, processing food nutrients, fighting infections and illness and helping to regulate your body’s metabolism.
The liver is a very complex organ – second only to the brain – and is extremely resilient and highly regenerative. However, there are some circumstances when your liver can be permanently damaged and is unable fulfill its functions adequately. This can lead to serious and life-threatening health conditions. Let’s take a look at the most common liver conditions affecting people.
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a build-up of fat in the liver and is usually seen in people who are overweight or obese. A healthy liver should contain little to no fat. Early stages of NAFLD usually don’t cause any harm but advanced cases can lead to serious liver damage. Having high levels of fat in your liver can also increase the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease.
- Alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD) refers to liver damage caused by regularly drinking large quantities of alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol over many years can reduce its ability to regenerate. Although the liver can develop new cells as part of its regeneration ability, each time the liver filters alcohol, some of the liver cells with this capability die. The liver then becomes significantly damaged, leading to liver cirrhosis.
- Cirrhosis is irreversible scarring of the liver caused by long term liver damage. The scar tissue replaces the healthy tissue which seriously impairs the liver functions and can ultimately lead to liver failure.
- Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by a virus which causes the liver to swell and stop working properly. It is commonly transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food. Although it is highly infectious, it usually go away on its own.
- Hepatitis B results from a viral infection. It is transmitted from an infected person to a non-infected person through bodily fluids such as blood and semen. Chronic forms of Hepatitis B can lead to liver cirrhosis. There is a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis B.
- Hepatitis C also comes from a viral infection and is spread through bodily fluids. If Hepatitis C goes untreated, it can lead to liver cirrhosis. Unlike Hepatitis B, there is no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C.
- Haemochromatosis is an inherited disorder which causes an overload of iron in the body. An abnormal gene is responsible for this. If left untreated, it can cause unpleasant symptoms and damage parts of the body including the liver, pancreas and heart.
- Liver cancer that first occurs in the liver is usually associated with cirrhosis that goes untreated. Secondary liver cancer occurs when cancer that developed elsewhere in the body spreads to the liver.
- Autoimmune hepatitis is a chronic liver condition in which the immune system attacks the liver and can cause serious liver damage and inflammation. It is more common in women and risk factors include a family history of the disease and having another autoimmune disease.
- Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) is a condition in which the immune system gradually destroys the bile ducts which link the liver to the gut. Bile then builds up in the liver causing inflammation and scarring. The disease is more common in women and smokers.
If left untreated, liver conditions can lead to significant health problems and can become life threatening. If you experience any unusual symptoms and would like expert advice on your liver health, contact Carlisle Digestive Disease Associates today at (717) 245-2228 to schedule an appointment or request an appointment online.