Liver diseases comprise a vast range of conditions that affect the normal functioning of the liver. The liver is a small organ located below the rib cage on the right hand side of the stomach. It plays an important role in digestion of food, absorption of nutrients and elimination of toxic substances from the body. Liver diseases can be either inherited through generations or they can even occur due to some infectious agents like viruses or due to chemicals.
There are over 100 different types of liver diseases and several lifestyle related things that can lead to liver disease. Most common diseases include alcoholic liver disease, hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and haemochromatosis. Some liver problems are temporary and go away on their own, while other liver problems can last for a long time and lead to serious complications.
Liver disease was traditionally known to occur in association with excessive alcohol intake but now the non-alcoholic variant is reaching epidemic proportions in the developed countries. Known to occur in association with metabolic syndrome consisting of hypertension, diabetes, obesity and hyperlipidemia this disease occurs because of faulty fat metabolism in the liver. Prevention is the best treatment and if uncontrolled can even end up in liver failure.
There are more than 100 different forms of liver disease caused by various factors ranging from genetic, environmental to lifestyle habits. Here are some common types of liver diseases and their causes highlighted by Dr Adarsh CK, consultant Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, St John’s Medical College Hospital, Bangalore.
1. Alcohlic liver disease:
The long-term effects of alcoholism are even more catastrophic. It affects all liver function and is along with fatty foods the primary cause of most liver ailments.
2. Non alcoholic liver disease:
This type of liver disease is commonly seen in patients who do not consume alcohol and the main characteristic of this condition is the accumulation of fat in the patient’s liver.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection. Hepatitis can be either acute or chronic depending on the severity of the condition.
4. Non alcoholic steatohepatitis: It is a type of liver disease mainly seen in diabetics, patients with high cholesterol and obese individuals who do not consume alcohol or do not have any viral infections.
5. Drug induced liver disease: Even the medicines you take get metabolised in the liver. Drug related liver disorder occurs due to increased deposition of minerals like copper and iron in the liver, causing blockage of blood supply to and from the liver.
6. Fatty Liver disease: Fatty liver is characterized by the accumulation of excess fat in the liver because of faulty fat metabolism in the liver. Traditionally known to occur in association with excessive alcohol intake, this disease is now reaching epidemic proportions in the developed countries due to the non-alcoholic variant.
Here are 8 food rules you should keep in mind for a healthy liver.
Although alcohol is the most common cause of liver disease, it is not the only thing that can harm your liver. Here are some other factors that can increase your risk of liver damage.
Increased salt intake
Use of nutritional supplements
Overuse of Medications
Infections and Illness
Inappropriate use of alternative medicines
Pesticides and heavy metals
Here is detailed explanation on common factors that can cause liver disease.
‘Most of the liver diseases present with similar symptoms with some variations,’ says Dr Adarsh. Here are some common symptoms he highlights:
Here is additional information on each of the symptoms of liver disease.
When the liver gets damaged, the liver cells release certain enzymes in the blood. These enzymes are used as blood markers to diagnose the condition. Here are some common markers and tests used to diagnose liver disease.
1. Serum Bilirubin: Bilirubin is a yellow pigment that is produced by the breakdown of red blood cells (RBCs). Levels of bilirubin increase in liver diseases. Read about 8 jaundice symptoms you need to watch out for.
2. Albumin: Albumin is a protein that is synthesized in the liver. When the liver function is hampered, less amount of albumin is produced.
3. Alkaline phosphatase (ALP): Alkaline phosphatase is a group of enzymes that are produced in various parts of the body including the intestine, kidneys and bones.
4. Alanine transaminase (ALT): ALT is an enzyme that is made by the liver cells called hepatocytes. Blood levels of ALT are increased when these hepatocytes are damaged due to hepatitis.
5. Liver biopsy: A liver biopsy may be suggested when a person’s liver function markers (AST, ALT, APT etc) deviate from the normal range for a long period of time.
Note that none of the tests mentioned above are able to determine an overall measure of liver function, individually. Collectively, all the values help to determine the chances of suffering from liver disease and the severity of disease.
Know more about blood tests: Understanding the different kinds.
Treatment of liver disease depends on the type, symptoms and cause of liver disease. Mainly, liver diseases are treated with lifestyle changes and diet modification.
Alcoholic liver disease can is treated with by stopping alcohol and dietary changes. Sometimes, behavioural therapy and counselling can also help the person cope with withdrawal symptoms.
Liver inflammation is treated with medicines like corticosteroids.
Liver cirrhosis is treated with diuretics to reduce fluid build up, vitamin K to stop bleeding and antibiotics if it due to an infection
Liver damage due to other conditions like diabetes need treatment for the underlying condition
‘Liver transplant is an option for people with an end stage liver disease or liver failure,’ says Dr Adarsh, consultant Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, St John’s Medical College Hospital, Bangalore.
Did you know about fetal alcohol syndrome? here's what you should know.
With our modern-day food and lifestyles (think greater junk food, alcohol, smoking, stress and medication) we put a greater pressure on our liver and this can cause several health problems right from allergies and migraine to obesity and indigestion. Here are a few herbal remedies that can help your liver stay healthy.
Amla or Gooseberry
Amrith or Guduchi
Haldi or Turmeric
Here is a detailed information about the top 6 natural remedies to keep your liver healthy
Dr Adarsh offers some simple yet effective tips to prevent liver disease such as -
Here are additional prevention tips for liver disease.
The content has been verified by Dr Adarsh CK, consultant Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, St John’s Medical College Hospital, Bangalore.