What Is It?
Liver disease, also known as hepatic disease, is caused by a disturbance of the liver function which can lead to illness. Liver disease can be inherited genetically or caused by a variety of factors such as alcohol, obesity or viruses that damage the liver. The liver is responsible for many critical functions within the body, and any loss of functions can lead to liver failure which is a life-threatening condition.
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice)
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Swelling in the legs and ankles
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine color
- Pale stool color, or bloody or tar-colored stool
- Chronic fatigue
- Tendency to bruise easily
- Heavy alcohol use
- Injecting drugs using shared needles
- Tattoos or body piercings
- Blood transfusion before 1992
- Exposure to other people’s blood and body fluids
- Unprotected sex
- Exposure to certain chemicals or toxins
- High levels of triglycerides in your blood
When to see a Doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you. Seek immediate medical attention if you have abdominal pain that is so severe that you can’t stay still.
Test and Diagnosis
- Your doctor will start with a health history and thorough physical examinations.
- Blood tests: A group of blood tests called liver function tests can be used to diagnose liver disease. Other blood tests can be done to look for specific liver problems or genetic conditions.
- Imaging tests: CT scan, MRI and ultrasound can show liver damage.
- Tissue analysis: Removing a tissue sample (biopsy) from your liver may help diagnose liver disease.
- Liver biopsy is most often done using a long needle inserted through the skin to extract a tissue sample.
Treatment for liver disease depends on your diagnosis.
- Some liver problems can be treated with lifestyle modifications such as stopping alcohol use or losing weight.
- Other liver problems may be treated with medications or may require surgery
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Avoid risky behavior
- Get vaccinated
- Use medications wisely
- Avoid contact with other people’s blood and body fluids
- Take care with aerosol sprays
- Protect your skin
- Maintain a healthy weight
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