Liver Disease

What is Liver Disease?

A liver disease is any condition that injures the liver and prevents it from functioning efficiently to store energy, digest food, and remove toxins. There are numerous causes of liver disease, such as Epstein Barr virus, hemochromatosis, malnutrition, diabetes, cancer, and hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.

Some genetic conditions, like Wilson’s disease, can affect liver functioning. Lifestyle choices, like abusing alcohol, having unprotected sex, using drugs, sharing needles, and gaining excess weight can increase the risk of a liver disease. If the liver damage is severe enough, it can lead to cirrhosis, or scarring—which can then lead to liver failure. While liver failure often occurs from lifestyle choices over time, there is acute liver failure which can occur in a couple of days after a reaction to an overdose or poisoning.

What are the Symptoms of Liver Disease?

Common symptoms of a liver disease include jaundicing, the tendency to bruise easily, nausea, weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain, abdominal swelling, bloody or abnormal stool colors, leg swelling, and vomiting. In the early stages liver disease, the liver may become inflamed as it tries to heal an infection.

If the inflammation is left untreated, the disease can develop into cirrhosis, and the liver can become so scarred that the trauma cannot be reversed or healed, which then can lead to liver failure. The first symptoms of liver failure are diarrhea, weight loss, and nausea. However, as liver failure progresses, the symptoms can become even more serious, such as disorientation and even comas.

How is Liver Disease Treated?

Since inflammation and fibrosis can cause irreversible damage to the liver, it is vital for patients with a liver disease to seek out help as soon as possible for a full recovery. Treatment avenues will depend on testing. Tissue analysis, blood testing, and imaging testing can be conducted to assess the types of damage.

If a person has a virus, like hepatitis A, then the condition will usually clear up on its own. Proper hydration and adequate bed rest is recommended; and a person may get a preventative vaccine for future cases.

If the liver disease is caused by a lifestyle choice, then a person may need to start losing weight, stop abusing alcohol, or stop abusing drugs. During this lifestyle transition, the patient’s liver function should be monitored by a doctor.

Some liver diseases can be treated with drugs, like steroids that reduce inflammation. If damage to the liver is extensive, surgery or even a liver transplant may be necessary.

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Last Reviewed:
October 06, 2016
Last Updated:
September 01, 2017