What is going on in the body?
- filtering the blood
- making bile, a substance that helps digest fat and excrete certain fatty substances
- processing and hooking fats to carriers (including cholesterol), and storing sugars, helping the body transport and save energy.
- making important proteins, such as most of those involved in blood clotting
- metabolizing many medications, such as barbiturates, sedatives, and amphetamines
- storing iron, copper, vitamins A and D, and several of the B vitamins
- making important proteins like albumin that regulate fluid transport in the blood and kidneys.
- helping break down and recycle red blood cells
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
- congenital birth defects, or abnormalities of the liver present at birth
- metabolic disorders, or defects in basic body processes
- viral or bacterial infections
alcoholor poisoningby toxins
- certain medications that are toxic to the liver
- nutritional deficiencies
- trauma, or injury
- galactosemia, an inherited disease in which the body can not tolerate certain sugars in milk. These sugars can build up, causing serious damage to the liver and other organs of the body.
- Alagille's syndrome, a condition in which the bile ducts narrow and deteriorate, especially during the first year of life
- alpha 1- antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic liver disease in children that can lead to hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver
- neonatal hepatitis, which is hepatitis that occurs in a newborn during the first few months of life
- tyrosinemia, a disorder that causes serious problems with liver metabolism
- hemorrhagic telangiectasia, a condition in which thin blood vessels allow frequent and easy bleeding of the skin and digestive tract
- Reye's syndrome, a condition that causes a buildup of fat in the liver. This condition has been linked in some cases to use of aspirin, especially in conjunction with chickenpox, influenza, or other illnesses with fever.
- Wilson's disease, an inherited condition that causes a buildup of the mineral copper in the liver
- thalassemia, a group of hereditary anemias, or low red blood cell counts
- biliary atresia, a condition in which the bile ducts extending from the liver to the intestine are too small in diameter or are missing
- chronic active hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver that causes severe scarring and interference with liver function
- cancer of the liver, which may result from cancer in other parts of the body that have spread to the liver
- cirrhosis, which is a serious condition that causes tissues and cells in the liver to be replaced by scar tissue.
- type I glycogen storage disease, which causes problems in controlling blood sugars when a person fasts
- porphyria, a condition that causes a malfunction in how the body uses porphyrins.
- hemochromatosis, a condition which causes the body to absorb and store too much iron. The iron buildup causes damage to the liver and other organs.
- primary sclerosing cholangitis, a condition that causes the bile ducts of the liver to narrow due to inflammation and scarring
- sarcoidosis, a disease that causes a buildup of lesions within the liver and other organs of the body
- gallstones, which may block the bile duct
- hepatitis, an inflammation and infection of the liver caused by any of several viruses
- cystic disease of the liver, which causes lesions and fluid-filled masses in the liver
- fatty liver disease, which causes an enlarged liver
- alcoholic hepatitis
- alcoholic cirrhosis
What can be done to prevent the disease?
- practicing good hygiene, such as washing hands well after using the restroom or changing diapers
- avoiding drinking or using tap water when traveling internationally
- avoiding illegal drug use, especially sharing injection equipment
- practicing safest sex. Practicing safer sex provides less protection.
- avoiding the sharing of personal hygiene items, such as razors or nail clippers
- avoiding toxic substances and excess alcohol consumption
- using medications only as directed
- using caution around industrial chemicals
- eating a well balanced diet following the food guide pyramid
- getting an injection of immune globulin after exposure to hepatitis A
- using recommended safety precautions in healthcare and day care work
How is the disease diagnosed?
A healthcare professional can determine whether a person's symptoms, medical history, and physical exam are consistent with liver disease. Hepatomegaly, an enlarged, firm liver, and other signs of liver disease may be found on examination.
- liver function tests, which are blood tests that check a wide variety of liver enzymes and byproducts
- a complete blood count (CBC), which looks at the type and number of blood cells in the body
- abdominal X-rays
- ultrasounds, to show size of abdominal organs and the presence of masses
- an upper GI study, which can detect abnormalities in the esophagus caused by liver disease
- liver scans with radiotagged substances to show changes in the liver structure
- ERCP, or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. A thin tube called an endoscope is used to view various structures in and around the liver.
- abdominal CT scan or abdominal MRI, which provide more information about the liver structure and function
Long Term Effects
What are the long-term effects of the disease?
- cirrhosis of the liver
- liver failure
- illnesses in other parts of the body, such as kidney damage or low blood counts
- gastrointestinal bleeding. This includes bleeding esophageal varices, which are abnormally enlarged veins in the esophagus and/or the stomach.
- encephalopathy, which is deteriorating brain function that may progress to a coma
- peptic ulcers, which erode the stomach lining
- liver cancer
What are the risks to others?
What are the treatments for the disease?
- bed rest
- drinking extra fluids to prevent
- avoiding unnecessary medications
- eating a well balanced
diet for liver disease
- taking antinausea medications as needed
What are the side effects of the treatments?
What happens after treatment for the disease?
How is the disease monitored?
http://www.liverfoundation.org/html/livheal.dir/livheal.htm/ http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/digest/pubs/hep/index.htm/ Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, fauci et al, 1998