Liver disease is a broad term used for different disorders or diseases affecting the liver and liver function. Most liver problems or diseases are accompanied by jaundice-the yellowing of the skin and eyes. Having jaundice almost always indicates liver disease. Other liver disease symptoms may depend on the liver structure affected. Let’s have a look at some of the different types of liver diseases, their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
Cirrhosis of the liver occurs when normal liver tissue is replaced by a scar due to long-term liver injury. These scar tissues cannot replace the normal liver’s functions.
The condition can be caused by too much alcohol drinking, such as that occurs in alcohol-related liver disease; chronic (long-term) hepatitis B, C, or D; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; and autoimmune hepatitis where the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks normal liver cells.
In some cases, diseases that damage or destroy the liver’s bile ducts-tiny passageways in the liver, and some inherited diseases like cystic fibrosis and Wilson disease, cause liver cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis symptoms may not be present during the early stages. However, symptoms occur as the disease progresses including jaundice, weakness and fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, and bloating due to accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. The fluid accumulation in the abdomen is termed as ascites.
Unfortunately, experts have not yet found a way to reverse liver damage. Liver cirrhosis treatment depends on the cause of liver scarring. The ultimate goal of cirrhosis treatment is aimed at slowing the progression of liver scarring. Treatment options, depending on the cause of cirrhosis, may include lifestyle changes, nutrition therapy, and medications. If too much damage to the liver occurs, liver transplantation may be necessary.
Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver. There are many conditions that can cause the liver to become inflamed. Such conditions include infection with hepatitis viruses-the most common cause, excessive alcohol drinking, drugs, and autoimmune diseases.
Hepatitis symptoms may include fever, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, pale bowel movements, dark-colored urine, and stomach pain. Some people with hepatitis may have no symptoms.
Hepatitis treatment depends on the cause. In some, hepatitis may go away on its own without special medical treatment. Sometimes, hepatitis may stay for a lifetime (chronic hepatitis). Avoiding alcohol is necessary for alcohol-related hepatitis. Vaccines are available for the prevention of hepatitis A and B.
Some virus-related hepatitis may eventually lead to cirrhosis.
Autoimmune hepatitis is a type of autoimmune disease causing the liver to swell and become inflamed. An autoimmune disease occurs when the person’s own immune system becomes overactive and attacks normal cells, in this case the liver. Nobody knows why some people’s immune system does this. However, researches believe that certain genetic factors may make some people to be prone to autoimmune diseases. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, about 70 percent of those with autoimmune hepatitis are female.
Autoimmune hepatitis may have similar symptoms as hepatitis and cirrhosis including jaundice, enlargement of the liver, nausea and vomiting, itching, and abdominal pain.
There is no actual cure for autoimmune hepatitis. However, the condition can be controlled with proper treatment. Sometimes, medications that slow down or suppress an overactive immune system help control the progression of the disease.
Long-term autoimmune hepatitis can lead to liver cirrhosis and even liver failure if not controlled.
Alcoholic Liver Disease
Long-term alcohol drinking primarily causes alcoholic liver disease. Most people who consume minimal amounts of alcohol do not suffer liver damage. However, drinking too much alcohol for many years can cause injury to liver tissues. The condition can lead to scarring of the liver, called cirrhosis. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, alcoholic liver disease led to more deaths than cirrhosis caused by other conditions or health problems in the past.
Alcoholic liver disease symptoms may be similar to other liver diseases, such as cirrhosis and hepatitis. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea and vomiting, weakness, fatigue, abdominal pain, and jaundice.
The only way to prevent alcoholic liver disease is to stop drinking alcohol. There is no way to reverse liver damage or scarring once it has started. The primary goal of treatment is to prevent further scarring of the liver. Depending on the extent of damage, treatment of alcoholic liver disease may include lifestyle changes, nutritional therapy, and medications. Sometimes, liver transplantation may be necessary if the liver stops functioning due to extensive liver damage.
Liver Cirrhosis. Digestive System Disorders (DSD).
Cirrhosis. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.
Hepatitis. National Library of Medicine.