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Liver disease

Last reviewed: May 1, 2024

The liver, roughly the size of a football, plays a crucial role in the human body. Situated beneath the rib cage on the right side of the abdomen, it undertakes various essential functions such as energy storage, waste filtration, and metabolism. Among its duties are aiding in food digestion, converting it into energy, and storing excess energy until required. Additionally, the liver filters toxins from the bloodstream.

Liver diseases can stem from genetic predispositions or various factors that harm the liver, including excessive alcohol consumption, viral infections, and obesity. If left untreated, these conditions can lead to scarring, known as cirrhosis, which may culminate in liver failure—a potentially fatal situation. Timely intervention allows the liver the opportunity to heal.

Statistics indicate that approximately 10% of Americans, totaling 30 million individuals, are afflicted with some form of liver disease nationwide. Chronic liver disease, specifically cirrhosis, affects as many as 5.5 million adults in the United States.

Symptoms

Liver disease has no noticeable signs and symptoms, however, if the symptoms occur, they can include:

Causes

Liver disease can be caused by:

Infection: Viruses and a range of parasites have the potential to infect the liver, triggering inflammation that diminishes its functionality. These viruses, capable of inducing liver damage, can be transmitted through various means such as semen or blood, contaminated water or food, or direct contact with an infected individual. Among the common liver infections caused by hepatitis viruses are hepatitis A, B, and C.

Immune system abnormality: An autoimmune response instigates diseases wherein the body’s immune system targets specific organs, including the liver. Autoimmune liver diseases encompass:

Genetics Inherited abnormal genes passed down from your parents can result in the accumulation of different substances within the liver, ultimately leading to liver damage. Genetic liver diseases may comprise:

Cancer and other growths Examples of cancer and other growths include:

Additional factors Additional common factors contributing to liver disease include:

Risk factors

The following factors can increase the risk of liver disease:

Prevention

Certain measures can be taken to prevent some types of liver disease, especially those related to our diet and lifestyle. If you’re at risk for liver disease, your healthcare provider can suggest some lifestyle changes including:

Several preventive measures can be adopted to mitigate the risk of certain types of liver disease, particularly those associated with our dietary choices and lifestyle. If you’re deemed at risk for liver disease, your healthcare provider may recommend lifestyle adjustments, including:

Treatment

The treatment for liver disease varies depending on the specific type and stage of the condition. Common treatment options include:

Work cited

Last reviewed and updated by on May 1, 2024

Dr. Jessica is a registered nurse and educator with 20 years of experience in critical care emergency nursing, specializing in patient care, education, and evidence-based practice. She holds multiple certifications and serves as a Patient Safety Coordinator.

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