What Are the Diseases of the Liver?

The liver is a large solid organ that lies in the right side of the stomach. It is responsible for breaking down glucose and making all sorts of proteins for the body. Sometimes, scars infiltrate the liver, and in other cases, an infection can develop. Additionally, the liver may not function at all. Fortunately, diseases of the liver have specific treatment options.

Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis refers to a chronic disease in which the liver cells become damaged over time. The University of Maryland Medical Center says that typical cirrhosis symptoms include fatigue, a poor appetite, weight loss, stomach pain and nausea. In some instances, red spots form on the skin. These are called spider angiomas. Additional symptoms include fluid buildup in the legs, yellowing of the skin or eyes, itching and easy bruising or bleeding.

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, suffering from a liver infection (hepatitis) or having a fatty liver are just some causes of cirrhosis.

Treatment for cirrhosis involves restricting salt and avoiding alcohol. Treating such conditions as hepatitis and a fatty liver is another way to manage cirrhosis. However, a liver transplant may be necessary if all the former treatment options are exhausted.

Viral Hepatitis

Viral hepatitis refers to a viral infection that infiltrates the liver. The University of Maryland Medical Center says that numerous types of hepatitis exist. Generally, hepatitis symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss and abdominal pain. Additional symptoms include an enlarged, tender liver, whole-body itching, yellowing of the skin or eyes and colorless stool.

Some risk factors for developing hepatitis include having a blood transfusion prior to 1992, unprotected sex, working in the food industry and getting a tattoo with contaminated instruments.

No medications exist to manage viral hepatitis, but it can be managed with fluids and a healthy diet. Sometimes, liver transplantation is necessary.

Acute Liver Failure

Acute liver failure refers to a condition in which the liver rapidly declines in function. The Mayo Clinic says that specific symptoms of acute liver failure include muscle tremors, confusion, vomiting, nausea, yellowing of the skin or eyes and trouble concentrating. Other symptoms include tenderness of the upper part of the stomach, disorientation and sleepiness.

Some causes of acute liver failure include taking too much acetaminophen, suffering from hepatitis and having cancer and metabolic diseases. Cancer and herbal supplements such as kava and ephedra are other causes of acute liver failure.

Treating acute liver failure depends on its cause. Medications can be given to reverse an acetaminophen overdose. Sometimes, excess fluid needs to be removed from the brain to help reduce fluid buildup. In some cases, a liver transplant may be necessary.

About this Author

Lisabetta Divita is a physician whose love for writing flourished while she was exposed to all facets of the medical field during her training. Her writings are currently featured in prominent medical magazines and various online publications. She holds a doctorate in medicine, a master’s in biomedicine, and a Bachelor of Science in biology from Boston College.