Diseases Affecting The Liver

Diseases Affecting The Liver

Liver is the largest internal organ of our body.  It performs numerous actions that keep a body active and balanced. Without a liver, one might die within a few hours as there is no artificial substitute that could mimic the liver’s functions yet.

Liver is one of the resilient organs. Liver has the capability to regrow damaged parts of the organ; this is why most of the serious diseases discussed here tend to go chronic or long term. Liver diseases or hepatic disease starts with the initial symptoms of jaundice, mild fever, vomiting, loss of appetite and lethargy.

The most common hepatic diseases are viral. Hepatitis A is the most common infection that affects the liver. It could be spread through contaminated food, contaminated water and improper washing of hands after toilet.

This virus has been responsible for wiping out entire food chains because of its capability of becoming an epidemic. It causes an acute (sudden) attack of jaundice, fever, lethargy and vomiting. If appropriate supporting measures are provided, the disease will self-limit with time. Hepatitis A doesn’t have an anti-viral for it; however, vaccine for hepatitis A has recently been developed to prevent infections in areas where hepatitis A is prevalent.

Hepatitis B and C are diseases that are spread through sexual contact and unscreened blood. These diseases are far more serious as they start slowly without initial symptoms which show up later when the disease has reached an advanced stage.

Hepatitis B and C are also associated with hepatic cancer and liver failure. Right now, Hepatitis B has prevention through vaccine and treatment through antiviral medications.  Hepatitis C causes liver cancer and failure in 95% of the patients contracting it. It doesn’t have any prevention or successful treatment yet, which makes it even scarier.

Hepatitis D is an infection that is only caused when Hepatitis B is already present in the body. It is spread through bodily fluids like blood and semen. It is a lethal infection since this virus has no prevention and no treatment. The person with the disease dies within a short period of time.

Hepatitis E is spread like Hepatitis A. It has same manifestations like hepatitis A and is self-limiting after a few weeks.  However, this disease turns really serious in pregnant women and ends up in killing almost 20% of the women with this disease.

During pregnancy, a woman faces a reduction in immunity; this allows a virus like Hepatitis E to attack and cause serious damage to the liver and the body. As a result every 1 in 5 women dies due to this disease.

Hepatic cancers and tumors are really serious conditions where a person could die within 5 years due to the aggressiveness of these diseases. These could occur either due to drinking, infections, radiations and old age. The treatment is only successful at early detection.

Liver failure is a chronic disease which occurs when 75% of the liver is irreparable and completely replaced with scar tissue. This condition couldn’t be treated and leads to death eventually.

Signs of liver failure are jaundice, ascites (filling up of the fluid in the abdomen) impaired clotting, black stools and sweet fecal breath. The treatments of liver diseases will be discussed in the next article.

Bacterial infections like typhoid and certain medications like tuberculosis antibiotic treatment, certain anti diabetics or cholesterol reducing drugs could also cause damage to the liver. This is why doctors ask for liver function tests when such drugs are prescribed.

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