Liver Disease: Types of Liver Problems and; Their Causes
- Hepatitis A is caused due to a virus that spreads through contaminated water or fecal matter
- Swollen stomach, abdominal pain, and muscle & joint aches are all symptoms of liver damage
- Prolonged consumption of steroids can cause liver damage
The liver is one of the most important organs in the body and is, in fact, the largest internal organ you have. It is a silent worker but is responsible for a range of tasks. The liver metabolises nutrients, produces proteins, excretes bile, removes toxins from the blood, stores iron, clears bilirubin, and more. Hence, liver disease is a serious problem, so much so that a sick liver can impair brain function. Moreover, liver disease can affect anyone, not just those who lead an imprudent lifestyle, as liver disease can be passed down genetically.
By the books, there are over 100 diseases affecting the liver. However, knowing the common ones can help you identify whether you are at risk of developing liver disease. A little understanding about the symptoms too will help you get treatment on time and thereby avert major liver issues.
Here is a concise list of 15 common liver problems and their causes.
Types of Liver Disease
Based on the cause, liver diseases can be categorized into diseases caused by viruses, diseases caused by substance abuse, diseases that are inherited, autoimmune conditions, and so on. Accordingly, below are some common liver diseases segmented into 5 major categories: liver infections, immune system problems, cancers and tumors, genetic and hereditary, and other causes.
Liver Disease - Liver infection
It is caused by the Hepatitis A virus that one usually gets by consuming food or water contaminated with faecal matter. It leads to liver inflammation and prevents proper liver function but goes away without treatment within a few weeks to months.
This infection is caused by the Hepatitis B virus, and one normally gets it by coming into contact with an infected body fluid such as blood or semen. Like Hep A, it leads to liver inflammation and prevents proper liver function. It can clear up on its own, but it can also lead to chronic liver disease.
It is caused by the Hepatitis C virus, and one gets it through contact with contaminated blood. The symptoms may be slow to show up, but Hep C can lead to permanent liver damage.
Liver Disease - Immune System Problems
This leads to liver inflammation and arises when the immune system attacks the liver. Drugs that combat the immune system can be used, and if untreated, this disease can eventually lead to liver failure.
Primary Biliary Cholangitis
Here, the bile ducts are injured, causing a build-up of bile and toxins within the liver. The injury to the ducts may be slow, but PBC can cause cirrhosis (scarring) and lead to liver failure.
Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis
This disease causes scarring to the bile ducts on account of inflammation. The ducts can become blocked eventually, and as in the case of PBC, bile builds up within the liver. It can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, or liver failure.
Liver Disease - Cancers & Tumors
It arises when cancer begins in the cells of the liver. The most common form is Hepatocellular Carcinoma. Chronic liver disease, Hepatitis B and C, excessive alcohol consumption, and other liver diseases may contribute to liver cancer.
Bile Duct Cancer
It arises when cancer cells form in the tubes that carry bile through the liver. Bile duct cancer is rare. Colitis and other liver diseases may increase the risk of one developing this cancer.
It is characterised by the presence of a benign tumor. There is a slim chance of the tumor turning cancerous and the disease has been linked to taking birth control pills.
Liver Disease - Genetic & hereditary
This disorder causes your body to absorb too much iron from food. In turn, the excess iron build-up in the liver causes liver disease. If not treated, the condition can lead to cirrhosis.
Here, there is an excess accumulation of copper in vital organs, including the liver. So, this inherited disorder can cause liver disease, but it can also lead to nerve and brain issues.
Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency
The liver makes a protein called alpha-1 antitrypsin that helps the lungs fight infections. In persons with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, however, the proteins aren’t made properly, get stuck in the liver, and do not make it to the lungs. Hence, both organs are affected.
Other Causes of Liver Disease
Too much consumption of alcohol causes alcoholic fatty liver disease, which can lead to inflammation and cirrhosis. In fact, overconsumption of alcohol can cause liver disease that may prove to be fatal.
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
In this case, there is excess fat accumulation in the liver amongst people who consume little to no alcohol. The field is still being researched but NAFLD can lead to inflammation and cirrhosis.
Certain medicines can be the cause of liver disease. Examples are methotrexate, griseofulvin, and steroids. Drug-induced liver disease can arise due to anything from recreational drugs to over-the-counter medicines.Additional Read: Fatty Liver
Symptoms of Liver Damage
When you are suffering from a liver disease you may exhibit symptoms such as:
- Yellow eyes and skin (jaundice)
- Dark urine
- Swollen stomach
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle and joint aches
- Swollen legs and ankles
- Itchy skin
- Pale, black, or bloody stools
- Continual fatigue
- Weak appetite
- Easy bruising
Not all the above are liver failure symptoms per se, but symptoms like jaundice, bleeding, swollen abdomen, abdominal pain, and mental disorientation are a cause for concern. They may indicate some degree of liver failure.
Liver Disease Treatment
Certain types of liver diseases, such as Hepatitis A, can be prevented with vaccination. For other liver diseases, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes that center around:
- Reducing alcohol intake
- Controlling obesity
- Eating liver-friendly foods
- Losing weight and exercising
For other liver diseases, you may have to undergo:
- Liver transplant
Maintaining a healthy liver is a lifelong task and one that is closely linked to leading a healthy lifestyle. Also, some forms of the disease progress slowly and spotting symptoms may not be easy. Nonetheless, to get advice on living a healthy lifestyle and identifying signs of liver disease, access the best healthcare platform provided by Bajaj Finserv Health and consult a relevant doctor. It allows you to search and filter for the best doctors, partake in video conferencing, share medical records, get e-prescriptions, and more. So, get a doctor on your side and make every effort to have a healthy liver!
Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.
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