Liver disease accounts for more deaths than any other condition in the 35 to 49 age group in the UK and is the third most common fatal illness overall.  Daily, at least forty people in the UK will die of liver disease, which has increased by 400% since 1970. However, 90% of liver disease incidents could have been prevented.

The Role of the Liver

The liver is responsible for producing bile that is used to digest food, primarily fats. It stores surplus glucose and releases it when energy is required. The liver creates amino acids to make proteins and fight infections, enables blood clotting, processes iron to make red blood cells, metabolises medicine so that the body can use it, and converts waste to urea.

This important organ can replicate its cells better than most other parts of the body, but it also has its limits. Once it becomes permanently scarred, a condition called cirrhosis, those cells are no longer able to function. If the liver suffers from acute failure, it can sometimes be reversed and carry on working. In other cases, the damage is permanent. This means the loss of all the functions the liver delivers and the consequent negative effects on the rest of the body. Another name for liver disease is hepatic disease.

liver pain

Types Of Liver Disease

There are a few types of liver diseases; therefore, treatment will depend on the cause. Two autoimmune conditions can affect the liver. These are autoimmune hepatitis and primary biliary cholangitis. Liver cancer may be characterised by tumours and abnormal cells. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C result from viruses and can be transmitted.

Hemochromatosis is a genetic disease that causes the body to store excess iron. This can lead to liver cancer, enlarged liver, cirrhosis, liver failure, and death. It can also contribute to diabetes, arthritis, early menopause, and erectile dysfunction, and affect the pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands, spleen, and gallbladder.

Wilson’s disease is also hereditary. It occurs when copper in the body reaches dangerous levels. Additionally, alcoholic fatty liver disease comes from alcohol abuse, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease from too much fat.

Symptoms of Liver Disease

The specific symptoms a person with liver disease experiences is dependent on the type. Acute liver failure (fulminant hepatic failure) comes on quickly and presents with pressure on the brain and abnormal bleeding. It represents a medical emergency. In some cases, the only cure is a liver transplant. It arises from one of the hepatitis viruses, the Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex virus, toxins such as poisonous mushrooms, blockages in the liver’s veins, autoimmune hepatitis, heatstroke, shock, liver cancer, sepsis, or certain medications. Its symptoms are jaundice, pain and enlargement of the abdomen, tremors and confusion, extreme sleepiness, vomiting or nausea, and a sweet or musty smell on the breath.

Chronic liver disease is more common and builds up over a period of time. Symptoms may include weight loss, fatigue, jaundice, nausea and vomiting, and a feeling of weakness.

Cirrhosis of the liver has the following signs: itchy skin, bruising easily, enlarged breasts, impotence, ascites, confusion, tiredness, and wasting of muscles. Blood flow to the liver becomes slower, making the blood vessels swell up. There is a risk of internal bleeding.

Getting Help for Liver Disease

If you have any of the signs and symptoms of liver disease, it is important to get treatment as soon as possible. If you are looking for private healthcare, Circle Health Group has the largest network to find the specialist you need. They have several consultant gastroenterologists caring for patients with liver disease. If the symptoms come on suddenly, get urgent medical advice.

In the case of an overdose of Tylenol or Acetaminophen, don’t wait for symptoms to develop as these may only arise once the liver has already been damaged. Get the person to an emergency centre as soon as possible. Treatment is only effective in the first few hours.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Liver Disease

Liver function tests will be done to determine what kind of liver disease you have and how far it has progressed. Genetic testing may be required. Imaging tests such as an MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound can reveal liver damage. A biopsy is also used for diagnosis.

The treatment will depend largely on the specific type of liver disease and its stage. Lifestyle changes include decreasing the intake of calories and fats and ingesting more fibre. Alcohol should be avoided completely. Certain liver conditions respond to medication, such as those caused by viruses or genetically inherited liver disease.

Transplants are often the only solution; this requires waiting for a donor organ to become available. These livers are not given to people who have damaged their livers with excessive alcohol intake.

Because liver disease is so common in the UK, it is important to implement lifestyle changes. If any signs or symptoms occur, getting medical advice is essential. You may be able to save your liver if you are diagnosed early enough before the damage becomes irreversible.