What is Liver Disease?
Most people have the opportunity to enjoy relatively good health. However, some people are not as fortunate as others. For some individuals, liver disease has ravaged their bodies until they are scarcely able to do any of the things that they used to do without even thinking about it.
There are many different reasons that liver disease can occur, not the least of which includes things like hepatitis, liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. In fact, many people have the misconception that liver disease only occurs in those individuals that have made some questionable lifestyle choices.
The truth is, those who suffer from alcoholism or that use certain drugs are more likely to suffer from serious liver disease, but the disease can happen to anyone. Because the liver is a vital organ, these types of diseases can eventually cause death. That is why it is so important to understand the different liver diseases that exist. That way, you can learn how to combat them and what to do to reduce your chances of ever having to experience these diseases in the first place.
Cirrhosis of the Liver
This is a disease that is typically caused by extreme alcoholism. Many times, the individual that is suffering from the disease has no idea that anything is even wrong with their liver until it is too late to do anything about it. As a result, the liver becomes large and inflamed.
Eventually, it becomes less and less capable of doing the work that it was designed to do, which is to filter toxins from the body. Ultimately, it stops functioning altogether and as it becomes more diseased, the individual suffering from the disease grows weaker and weaker by the day.
In some cases, cirrhosis of the liver can be caused by hepatitis. This is a disease that has many different forms and it can be caused by a variety of different things.
This is a disease that can be contracted in many different forms. In addition, treatments for the disease have dramatically improved in recent years, thereby extending the life expectancy of those who were affected by the most serious form of the disease in most cases. Hepatitis A and B are both viruses that are contracted in much the same way that a person would contract the flu.
Symptoms are similar in both forms, including jaundice, severe stomach pain, nausea, fatigue, fever and a lack of appetite. At the same time, a person that is affected by either hepatitis A or B may not have any symptoms at all. Anyone that is affected by the disease is typically contagious for approximately two weeks before their symptoms even appear, so the chances of them knowing that they have it are slim and none.
Their ability to pass the disease to others usually lasts for about another week after symptoms start occurring. Hepatitis C is the most serious form of the disease and while the symptoms are typically the same, it is possible to develop a chronic form of the disease which may eventually lead to things like cirrhosis of the liver as well as liver cancer.
Hepatitis C is transferred from blood and bodily fluids and cannot be contracted in the same way that most viruses are contracted.
This is one of the scariest diseases that a person could ever be diagnosed with. Because the liver is a vital organ, a person simply cannot live with one that has been severely damaged to the point that it is no longer able to function. A diagnosis of liver cancer can be absolutely devastating. In order to have any chance for long-term survival, the disease must be caught early, preferably in its beginning stages.
While the liver is necessary for human life, it is possible to live a relatively normal life with only part of a liver. As a result, the disease can potentially be eradicated by removing part of the liver if necessary. Of course, this all depends on the ability to diagnose the disease early enough to do something about it before the entire organ becomes affected by cancer cells. Once the entire liver has been affected, a person’s only recourse is radiation and chemotherapy.
Even with these types of treatments, chances for long-term survival are dramatically impacted. As the liver becomes more and more damaged, a person often experiences problems with other organ systems and eventually, this leads to death.
The liver is considered one of the body’s vital organs and diseases of the liver will also greatly impact the functions of the other body systems. Liver disease can have different etiologies: infectious, neoplastic, or sometimes life-style acquired.
The liver is responsible for making sure that toxic substances in the body are filtered and excreted. Apart from that, it creates the body’s most common form of protein, called albumin.
It is also responsible for synthesizing the body’s clotting factors, which prevent you from bleeding excessively when you have open wounds. Understanding this is important because liver conditions result in disturbances of these functions.
Patients with liver problems commonly have increased levels of waste substances in their body, they are malnourished because of decreased protein, and they have a greater tendency to bleed and die from hemorrhage than others.
One of the most common forms of liver disease is infectious and predominantly viral in nature. Viral hepatitis is an acute condition that can be acquired though a number of ways: through eating contaminated food, being donated contaminated blood, and can even be sexually transmitted.
Its signs and symptoms are a notable yellowing of the skin, fever, chills, loss of appetite, and sometimes vomiting and weight loss. Most are self-limiting, but other forms of viral hepatitis (specifically hepatits B) can be a lifelong disease.
Liver dysfunction can also be neoplastic, meaning that there is a mass growing inside the liver itself. Some of these masses are benign, and thus surgical excision of the mass is usually curative.
In most cases, the liver mass will turn out to be cancerous on further work-up. In these cases, surgery is not indicated, and treatment can be through chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Finding Ways to Prevent Liver Disease
As is the case with most diseases, the easiest way to handle any of the diseases mentioned in this article are to avoid contracting them in the first place. The question is, how does one actually accomplish this? Fortunately, there are some very basic things that a person can do to give them the best chances of living a long and healthy life without having to deal with these types of chronic diseases.
One of the most effective ways is to change their diet so that they are getting an optimum level of nutrition without ingesting a lot of potentially harmful products that have no real nutritional value whatsoever. A diet that is heavy in lean meats and green, leafy vegetables can help a person maintain glutathione in their body.
This is an antioxidant that is made by the body, but it is often necessary to get additional levels of the substance in order to successfully stave off diseases. It is believed that the inflammation causes a lot of diseases, including diseases of the liver.
As a result, glutathione can help eliminate many of the conditions that cause these types of diseases before they ever really manifest. Anyone that is not capable of getting the necessary levels of glutathione through their diet can take supplements in order to ensure that they are getting enough.
As long as the liver functions normally and does what it is supposed to do, most people don’t really give it a second thought. It is only when they begin to experience problems that they notice that there might be something wrong. However, you might want to consider taking glutathione supplements early on in order to reduce your chances of experiencing any type of liver disease.
Inflammation has a tendency to increase as a person gets older, making it easier for things like liver disease to occur. As a result, it is necessary to do everything humanly possible to reduce the chances that a person might contract a chronic and even potentially terminal disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Liver Disease
The signs and symptoms of liver problems can be very broad, and similar to other types of cancer: loss of appetite, weight loss, body weakness and fatigue, pallor, abdominal enlargement, and edema (or swelling) of the hands and feet.
Liver cancer is usually considered a terminal illness. In fact, a lot of other cancers tend to spread to the liver because of its rich blood supply.
Lastly, the most common form of liver disease is lifestyle acquired. Alcohol is the main culprit, since ethanol is considered toxic to the body. High levels of this substance leads to direct cell damage and inflammation. Some harmful chemicals and substances in the workplace (like vinyl chloride), have been shown to directly cause angiosarcoma of the liver, a type of cancer.
The symptoms of lifestyle-acquired liver conditions may be similar to cancer. Among alcoholics, it is common for them to manifest with “encephalopathy” – that is, disturbances in mental function because the toxic substances are not excreted and go to the brain.
If you have any of the signs and symptoms above, it is best to consult a doctor. They may order blood work-up, imaging tests to see if there is a growing mass, or they may take samples from the liver for further examination.