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Liver diseases: All you need to know about them

New diagnostic method for liver diseases may make it easier for you to fight these conditions, finds research. However, you need to be aware of the ways liver conditions may hit you. We arm you with all the information you need.

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : June 27, 2019 1:36 PM IST

The mortality rate of liver diseases is quite high globally, thanks to their silent symptoms and late diagnoses. According to some estimate, the death toll of these conditions is increasing and will assume alarming proportions in the near future. These possibilities can be attributed to delayed detection and late access to treatment.

However, scientists have come up with a new mechanism to detect liver diseases early on, states a study published in the Journal of Hepatology. The new test that they have devised is known as Intelligent Liver Function test (iLFT). The results revealed that iLFT lead to a 43% raise in the diagnosis of liver disease. The accuracy rate was also over 90%.

While this is good news for all who are in the high risk category for liver diseases, you need to be aware of these conditions so that you can spot the symptoms early on and reach out for treatment at the right time.

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TYPES OF LIVER DISEASE

There are more than 100 different forms of liver disease. Various factors ranging from genetic, environmental to lifestyle habits can cause them. Here are some common types of liver conditions you need to be aware of.

Alcoholic liver disease

It is caused by heavy intake of alcohol. Alcohol affects the liver cells and diverts them from their primary function of providing glucose. It can also destroy the liver cells resulting in fat deposits (alcoholic fatty liver disease) and can even cause inflammation of liver (alcoholic hepatitis). Here's detailed information on alcoholic liver disease.

Non-alcoholic liver disease

It is excessive fat accumulation around the liver found in people who do not consume alcohol.

Hepatitis

It is inflammation of liver, most commonly caused by hepatitis virus. There are different types of hepatitis: hepatitis A, B, C and E caused by different viruses.

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.

Drug induced liver disease

Your liver metabolises the medicines you take in. 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.

WHAT PUTS YOU AT THE RISK OF LIVER DISEASES?

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.

Diabetes

Having diabetes increases the risk of liver disease by 50 per cent. People with diabetes due to insulin resistance have high levels of insulin in their blood, which triggers abdominal weight gain. This causes the liver to store fat internally, causing fatty liver disease.

Increased salt intake

High salt intake causes hypertension but it can also cause fatty liver disease by building up fluid in the liver (water retention) and swelling it up. Here are some useful tips to reduce salt intake.

Smoking

Although cigarette smoke does not have a direct effect on liver function, harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke increase oxidative stress of the system after reaching the liver, causing irreversible damaging to the liver cells.

Nutritional supplements

Dietary or nutritional supplements can increase the production of certain liver enzymes when taken in excess amounts, causing damage.

Pesticides and heavy metals

Exposure to chemicals in pesticides and heavy metals through vegetables, fruits and adulterated foods and can also damage the liver. These toxins accumulate in liver over a lifetime to cause liver damage.

Alcohol

We all know that alcohol is bad for your liver. When you drink alcohol, the liver gets diverted from its other functions and focuses mainly on converting alcohol to a less toxic form. When your liver absorbs alcohol, you may become fatty liver disease, inflammation of the liver and cirrhosis.

Obesity

People who are obese have an excess amount of body fat which tends to accumulate around the liver, causing fatty liver disease. Experts associate obesity to cirrhosis of liver and liver failure.

Infections

Viral hepatitis A, B and C and autoimmune hepatitis attack the liver cells directly causing inflammation. Without proper treatment, hepatitis can cause cirrhosis of the liver (hardening and scarring of liver tissue) and may gradually lead to liver failure.

Tuberculosis

Although clinically silent, this condition can affect the liver once the bacteria causing tuberculosis gain entry into the liver and colonize it. In an attempt to fight infection, the liver responds to colonizing bacteria, leading to a tumour formation. This condition is called as hepatic tuberculosis.

SPOTTING A LIVER DISEASE

As already mentioned, liver diseases come with silent symptoms. So, you need to be watchful and take even the slightest signal that your body sends. Watch out for the following manifestations:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Abdominal pain
  • Itching
  • Distension of abdomen
  • Swelling of lower limbs
  • Weight loss

If you observe any of these symptoms, reach out to a gastroenterologist. He may suggest the following tests to diagnose your condition.

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.

Albumin

Albumin is a protein that your liver synthesizes. When the liver doesn't function optimally, it produces less albumin.

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. The levels of ALP increased when your bile duct doesn't work well.

Alanine transaminase (ALT)

ALT is an enzyme that your liver cells called hepatocytes make. Blood levels of ALT increase when hepatitis damages these hepatocytes. The levels are also increased in case of alcoholic liver disease, drug-induced and virus-induced liver disease.

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. Sometimes, a liver biopsy is recommended to confirm liver disease following a scan, to identify the cause of jaundice or to determine the extent of damage to the liver. The test involves laboratory analysis of a tissue sample collected from the liver of the patient.

LINE OF TREATMENT

Treatment of liver diseases depends on the type, symptoms and cause of liver disease. Lifestyle changes and diet modification are the cornerstones of managing a liver condition.

  • Alcoholic liver disease is treated with by stopping alcohol and dietary changes. Sometimes, behavioural therapy and counselling can also help the person cope with withdrawal symptoms
  • Inflammation of the liver is treated with medicines like corticosteroids.
  • Cirrhosis of liver is treated with diuretics to reduce fluid build-up, vitamin K to stop bleeding and antibiotics if it due to an infection
  • Damage to the liver due to other condition like diabetes need treatment for the underlying condition
  • One needs a liver transplant at the last stage of liver disease or failure.

ENSURING A HEALTHY LIVER

Cut back your chance of getting a liver disease by following a healthy life style. Walk a lot, do strength training workouts and avoid high sodium, fried foods. Workouts like push-up, leg press, crunches, bench press, etc. have been found to be good for your liver. Natural options like turmeric, lemon and green tea are also good for your liver. Load up your diet with Vitamin C-rich foods as well.

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