GI Education

Liver


The liver is the largest organ inside your body sitting just under your rib cage on the right side of your abdomen. The liver helps the other digestive organs to digest, absorb and process food; it also helps get rid of toxic substances from your body.
The liver’s main function is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body.

Common liver disorders

Hepatitis
Viral hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A, B and C are all distinct diseases that affect the liver. Your doctor will run tests to determine which type of hepatitis you have and then determine the best treatment options.

Cirrhosis
Long-term damage to the liver creates scarring of the liver, called Cirrhosis. The scar tissue forms making the liver unable to function properly. An unhealthy liver makes it difficult to fight infection, and clean the blood to help food digestion. Cirrhosis is caused by chronic alcoholism and hepatitis.

Cirrhosis can lead to other problems like high blood pressure, enlarged veins in the esophagus and stomach and kidney failure.

Gallstones
Gallstones are pieces of solid material that form in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small organ located under the liver. The gallbladder helps the digestive process by storing bile and secreting it into the small intestine when food enters. Gallstones form when there is an imbalance in the substances that make up bile. Genetics, body weight, diet and decreased mobility are all factors that can lead to gallstones.

Gallstones are called the silent stones because typically no symptoms show. However, when symptoms do appear its usually pain in the upper abdomen, nausea or vomiting.

Liver cancer
Typically most liver cancer forms in other parts of the body then spreads to the liver. The liver performs important functions like removing toxins from the blood, making it ready for excretion. Because all the blood in the body must pass through it, the liver is unusually accessible to cancer cells traveling in the bloodstream.

Primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), cancer that starts in the liver, only accounts for 2% of cancers in the U.S. Primary liver cancer tends to occur in livers damaged by birth defects, alcohol abuse or chronic infections.
Men are at a much higher risk then women for primary liver cancer, affecting twice as many men as women, making it the most common type of cancer in males over 50.
Liver failure
Liver failure usually occurs gradually over many years when the large parts of the liver become damaged from infection, genetic diseases and alcohol abuse. Because the liver is unable to function properly, liver failure is a life-threatening condition that demands urgent care.

Liver failure may be difficult to diagnose but early symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, fatigue and loss of appetite. Other serious symptoms are jaundice, bleeding easily and swollen abdomen.

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