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The liver is a highly under-appreciated organ. In the post, I'll try and explain what the liver does, the diseases which can affect it and end with tips to maintain it in top shape.
Your liver is a one and a half kg organ that sits behind your right rib cage. If you did not have your liver, you would not be able to process nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals from your food. Your body would not get rid of all the toxins and microbes. Your blood would probably never clot! The liver plays a vital role in maintaining the body's metabolic balance.
As the liver performs a variety of important functions it is extremely vulnerable to a variety of metabolic, toxic, microbial, circulatory and cancerous insults. Awareness of the liver's functions and what all can cause liver disease can help you take the road to great health.
Let's start with a few commonly known diseases that can affect the liver:
What are the symptoms of liver disease?
This depends on the onset and rapidity of progression of liver damage.
In case of acute liver damage (due to drugs, toxins, viral hepatitis A, B or E), there may be fever with yellowish discoloration of sclera (the white of the eye), skin and urine. In most cases this may be self-limiting. In a small percentage, this may progress to fulminant liver failure leading to coma, altered blood clotting, kidney failure, secondary infections and may even require liver transplantation.
Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of liver disease.
In chronic liver damage (due to hepatitis B, C or alcohol), the symptoms would be more gradual in onset:
The above symptoms are not comprehensive and it is best to consult a doctor at the earliest onset of any of the above.
Tips for a healthy liver:
Diet and Alcohol: A balanced diet with low fat content would be well suited to prevent fatty liver. Alcohol is best avoided.
Exercise: Plays a role in controlling cholesterol and in the metabolism of fat thus indirectly protecting the liver.
Vaccination: Hepatitis B is preventable by vaccination. Three shots of the hepatitis B vaccine taken over three months can provide long term protection against the dreaded disease.
Hygienic food and drinking water: Hepatitis A and E are known to spread via the oral route. Think twice before having road side delicacies! Boil the water that you intend to drink. It is the best way to prevent communicable diseases.
Avoid self-medication: Various drugs can damage the liver if taken indiscriminately
Regular check-ups: Once diagnosed with liver disease, be regular in follow ups with the doctor. Reversible damage can become irreversible if neglected.
This World Liver day, let's strive not to abuse our liver, one of the most useful organs that we have. Let's treat it with the love and respect it deserves.
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