The Liver

The liver is the second largest organ in the body and is responsible for:

  • Detoxification of poisonous substances like alcohol.
  • Producing bile that is used in lipid digestion.
  • Controlling cholesterol levels by breaking down cholesterol through use of HDL’s.
  • Aiding blood clotting.
  • Fighting infections.

Types of liver diseases:

  1. Alcohol-related

Alcohol consumption can lead to a build up of fats within the liver. Fatty liver disease is reversible, if alcohol consumption is reduced drastically for around a month. Alcoholic hepatitis can occur after substance abuse with alcohol and binge drinking. Cirrhosis can also occur when the liver has been scarred. A liver transplant is only required, usually, in the late stages of cirrhosis. However usual treatment is to reduce alcohol consumption drastically after diagnosis and maintaining a balanced life style.

2. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

This usually occurs in people who are overweight or obese and leads to a build up of fat within the liver. This can lead to fibrosis which causes persistent inflammation that leads to  scar tissue around the liver and nearby blood vessels. This can then later turn into cirrhosis.

3. Hepatitis

This is inflammation of the liver due to a viral infection or damage caused by alcohol. Symptoms include joint pain, high temperature, feeling sick, jaundice and itchy skin to name a few. Types of hepatitis:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Hepatitis D
  • Hepatitis E
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Autoimmune hepatitis

4. Haemochromatosis

This is an inherited condition that is due to a slow build up of iron in the body. Symptoms include: weight loss, joint pain, fatigue, weakness etc. Treatments include: phlebotomy: removal of blood to stabilise iron levels and chelation therapy: medication to reduce iron levels. Haemochromatosis is caused by a faulty gene that affects how the body absorbs iron from food.

5. Primary biliary cirrhosis

This occurs when the bile ducts in the liver become damaged. This leads to a build up of bile in the liver that leads to cirrhosis, scarring. The immune system attacks bile ducts, this scars bile ducts making it difficult for bile to move out of the liver. It is a progressive condition that worsens over time.

Liver disease can usually be treated in a variety if ways, but in the worst cases a transplant may be required.




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