Liver Diseases

Liver diseases refer to any number of conditions that disrupt the liver's normal functioning. The body’s largest organ, the liver works to make proteins, digest food and filter out toxins like chemicals, drugs and alcohol. It’s also unique in that it is capable of regeneration.  

Causes for Liver diseases

In some cases, excessive alcohol use can cause the liver to slowly fail over time. This, in turn, can lead to chronic liver failure. Acute liver failure is different and occurs suddenly. It can even occur in people who have no history of liver disease. A serious, life threatening condition, acute liver failure can be caused by viruses, cancer, some herbal supplements, drugs and more. Viruses like hepatitis can pave the way for liver disease. If a person’s liver is diseased for a long period of time, it can lead to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is characterized by scarring of the liver. Symptoms of liver disease include jaundice, which is yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. Liver enlargement or a reduction in bile flow are also signs of the disease. Another symptom is a buildup of fluid in the abdomen.  

Treatment

For some people with liver disease, making lifestyle changes (like avoiding alcohol) can help. For others, medications are effective. In cases of severe liver failure, a liver transplant may be necessary. For people who know they’ve been exposed to hepatitis B, receiving an injection of hepatitis B immune globulin within 24 hours may reduce the risk of becoming infected. There are currently vaccinations to protect against hepatitis A and B. According to the World Health Organization, China has produced the first vaccine ever to prevent hepatitis E. But at this point, it is not globally available. Data from a 2014 large-scale study out of Singapore found that consuming at least two cups of coffee per day may reduce mortality risk from liver cirrhosis by roughly 66 percent.

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