The liver

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The liver breaks down the unusable parts of proteins and converts them into ammonia, and eventually urea. According to the Canadian Liver Foundation , there are more than types of liver disease, and they are caused by a variety of factors, such as viruses, toxins, genetics, alcohol and unknown causes. The following are among the most common types of liver disease:. According to the National Institutes of Health NIH , one symptom of liver disease is jaundice — yellowish skin and eyes. Other symptoms include abdominal pain and swelling, persistent itchy skin, dark urine, pale stools, bloody or black stools, exhaustion, bruising easily, nausea and loss of appetite.

There are two types of fatty liver, according to the Cleveland Clinic : that caused by excessive alcohol consumption fatty liver and that which is not non-alcoholic fatty liver or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Speaking of both conditions, Knowlton said, "Some fat on the liver is normal, but when it starts to accumulate to greater than percent, it can lead to permanent liver damage and cirrhosis.


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Fatty liver "can be caused by genetics, obesity, diet, hepatitis, or alcohol abuse," said Knowlton. Other risk factors include rapid weight loss, diabetes, high cholesterol, or high trigycerides, according to the ALF. Some people may get fatty liver even if they don't have any risk factors. Up to 25 percent of the U. There are no medical treatments for fatty liver disease, though avoiding alcohol, eating a healthy diet, and exercising can help prevent or reverse fatty liver disease in its early stages.

According to the Mayo Clinic , an enlarged liver or hepatomegaly isn't a disease itself, but a sign of an underlying serious problem, such as liver disease, cancer or congestive heart failure. There may be no symptoms of an enlarged liver, though if they are they are the same as the symptoms for liver disease. Normally, the liver cannot be felt unless you take a deep breath, but if it is enlarged, your doctor may be able to feel it, according to the NIH.

The doctor may then do scans, MRIs, or ultrasounds of the abdomen to determine if you have an enlarged liver. Treatment will involve addressing the underlying problem. Liver pain is felt in the upper right area of the abdomen, just below the ribs. Usually, it is a dull, vague pain though it can sometimes be quite severe and may cause a backache. Sometimes people perceive it as pain in the right shoulder. It is often confused with general abdominal pain, back pain or kidney pain, according to New Health Guide.

It can be hard to pinpoint the exact location or cause of such pains, so it is important to see a doctor.

Your Liver

Doctors may do blood tests, ultrasounds or biopsies to determine the cause of pain. Genetic liver diseases include:. Complications of liver disease vary, depending on the cause of your liver problems. Untreated liver disease may progress to liver failure, a life-threatening condition. Liver disease care at Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic does not endorse companies or products.

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This content does not have an English version. This content does not have an Arabic version. Liver problems Liver problems that can occur include fatty liver disease and cirrhosis. The liver The liver is your largest internal organ. Request an Appointment at Mayo Clinic. Share on: Facebook Twitter. References Longo DL, et al.

Approach to the patient with liver disease. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. New York, N.

The liver’s response to stress

Accessed Dec. The progression of liver disease. American Liver Foundation. Udompap P, et al.

Liver Function Tests: MedlinePlus

Current and future burden of chronic nonmalignant liver disease. Clinics in Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Goldman L, et al. There's no test or risk factor that predicts who will develop cirrhosis and who won't, although one study did find that people who are older or whose initial liver biopsies showed more inflammation were at greater risk.


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It's clear, though, that the prognosis for NASH is far better than it is for steatohepatitis that's the result of heavy alcohol consumption. Perhaps as many as half of all those with alcoholic steatohepatitis which lacks a handy acronym go on to develop cirrhosis.


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In addition to liver problems, people with fatty liver disease and NASH need to be more worried about heart disease and stroke. Their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease is twice as high as people that don't have NASH. One reason may be related to the inflammatory and other factors pumped out by a fat-afflicted liver cells that promote damage to the insides of arteries and make blood more likely to clot, a combination that can lead to heart attack or stroke. Most people with fatty liver disease don't have symptoms, and that's true even if it has developed into NASH. Only occasionally do people feel run-down, or they have an achy feeling in the upper right side of the abdomen, where the liver is located.

So, more often than not, fatty liver disease and NASH are discovered incidentally, starting with higher than normal levels of liver enzymes on a routine blood test. Ultrasound imaging, the same technology used to get pictures of developing fetuses, can be informative: the liver looks bright because the fat shows up as white on the image. The fat in the liver is visible, but not the NASH-related inflammation.

Some researchers have developed formulas that use a simple blood test and measurements of various hormones, inflammatory factors, and liver enzymes to arrive at a diagnosis, but this work is at a preliminary stage. Currently, a liver biopsy is the only way to make a definitive diagnosis of fatty liver or NASH.

Liver biopsies involve inserting a long needle into the right side of the abdomen and extracting a small piece of liver tissue that can be examined under a microscope. Liver biopsies are an invasive procedure, so they aren't entirely free of risk and complications, but they're also fairly routine these days and can be done on an outpatient basis. Whether a doctor will order a biopsy to nail down a diagnosis depends on many factors, including whether the person is obese or has diabetes or shows other signs of liver trouble.

Weight loss, from changes in diet and an increase in physical activity, is the primary treatment for most cases of fatty liver disease and NASH.

What Causes Cirrhosis Of The Liver?