Researchers and medical professionals have identified over 100 different types of liver disease, all of which compromise this organ’s ability to function properly. The liver is a highly complex organ, performing many essential tasks, such as filtering nutrients, removing toxins and impurities, and converting food to energy, and storing it.
When the liver is compromised, it cannot perform its metabolic, detoxification, and storage functions, which, in turn, can impact the rest of your body.
Infections can cause Liver Disease
Infections are one source of liver disease, with viral hepatitis as the most common cause, including Hepatitis A, which most people get by eating or drinking tainted food or water; Hepatitis B is usually acquired from somebody else through unprotected sex or sharing needles; and Hepatitis C, which comes from infected blood that gets into your blood through sharing needles or an accidental needle stick from an infected needle.
Immune System Issues can Lead to Disease of the Liver
Immune system problems can also lead to liver disease and cause your body to attack your liver. Some of the more common problems include:
- Autoimmune hepatitis, which inflames your liver and can lead to other disorders;
- Primary biliary cholangitis, which attacks your bile ducts and can lead to bile backing up inside your liver and scarring your liver;
- Primary Sclerosing cholangitis, which can scar and eventually block your bile ducts, potentially leading to liver cancer and the need for a liver transplant.
Cancers and Tumors
Cancers and tumors, including liver cancer, bile duct cancer, and liver cell adenoma are forms of cancers that can start in the liver. More commonly, cancer in the liver has spread from another part of your body, such as your lungs, colon, or breasts.
Liver Disorders can be Inherited from a Parent
Inherited liver disorders are also a source of liver disease and only happen if they run in your family. Examples include Wilson’s disease, which causes copper to build up in your liver and other organs, affecting your liver and potentially causing nerve and psychiatric problems. Hemochromatosis causes your body to store too much iron from your food in your liver, heart or other organs, causing life-threatening conditions. Hyperoxaluria is caused by your liver making too much oxalate, causing kidney stones and kidney failure.
Other causes of liver disease include cirrhosis of the liver (a build-up of scars in your liver, making it harder for the organ to do its job); alcohol abuse, which can lead to Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease or a build-up of fat inside your liver; Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, which can inflame your liver or scar your liver and lead to other disorders like cirrhosis; and drug-induced liver damage caused by taking too much acetaminophen or other medications.
Symptoms of Liver Disease
Because many forms of liver disorders and liver diseases can be prevented and/or the damage can be reversed, it is important to take notice of any early signs or symptoms and go to the doctor for further testing and diagnosis.
The most common signs and symptoms of liver disease include the following:
- Jaundice, or skin and eyes that appear yellowish
- Abdominal pain and swelling, particularly in the upper right abdomen
- Swelling in the legs and ankles
- Dark urine color
- Pale stool color
- Itchy skin, particularly on the soles of the feet or palms of the hands
- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
Think You have Symptoms of Liver Disease? Digestive Health Centers can Help!
If you are experiencing any symptoms that you think might be related to liver disease, it’s important to get with a specialist right away to evaluate your symptoms, your medical history, and your lifestyle. Digestive Health Centers can help, and we’re ready to have a conversation with you. Contact us today for more information or to book a consultation.