Liver Disease overview
The liver is an essential organ in the digestion process, responsible for ridding your body of toxic substances. Liver disease is a condition that affects the organ’s ability to function. It can be caused by a wide range of reasons, but they can all eventually result in liver failure, which is life-threatening.
When the liver suffers damage, be it from excessive drinking or one of the other many causes, it works to repair itself, leaving behind scar tissue. As this scar tissue progresses, it develops into what is known as cirrhosis of the liver. The more scar tissue on your liver, the less functionality it retains.
Cirrhosis is not reversible, making early detection and mitigation paramount. If liver damage is diagnosed early on and the issue resolved, further damage can be significantly limited and even rarely reversed.
The signs of liver disease can be challenging to detect at first, as many people don’t experience symptoms until things progress to a severe place. When symptoms do occur, they often start with things such as fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, weight loss, swelling in the lower half of the body, and bleeding easily.
Likely the most well-known causes of liver disease are chronic alcohol abuse and being obese, but there is a wide range of conditions that can eventually lead to cirrhosis. This includes infections such as Hepatitis A, B, and C, immune system problems such as primary biliary cirrhosis, genetic disorders such as Hemochromatosis, and even certain types of cancer or other growths like liver adenoma.
Other than alcohol abuse and obesity, several risk factors raise your chances of developing liver disease or cirrhosis. These factors include generally risky behaviors such as using shared needles, having unprotected sex, exposure to other’s bodily fluids, or exposure to chemicals. However, more innocuous-seeming things, like having tattoos or piercings or having received a blood transfusion before 1992, could also mean you have a higher chance of developing liver disease.
According to the CDC, around 4.5 million people in the US are living with liver disease, with global estimates suggesting more than 50 million people face this disease. Making things more dire, recent reports have shown the number of liver disease-related deaths have risen over the last ten years.
If you’re worried you or a loved one could be living with liver disease or cirrhosis, don’t wait to make a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible. Seeing a doctor is the only way to know for sure what you’re facing and get started on the right path forward.