Knowing the Symptoms of Liver Disease Could Save your Life
Knowing how to recognize the symptoms of liver disease can save your life. As with so many illnesses and diseases, liver disease, if spotted early enough, can be arrested, and cured (providing the causes have been identified and are avoided in future), and your liver can fully recover, growing new healthy tissue to replace any that has been damaged, just as long as the disease has not been allowed to progress too far – hence the importance of knowing what the warning signs to look out for.
An organ and a gland
Your liver is the largest internal organ (and also the largest internal gland) that you have in your body. In a healthy adult, a normal liver will weigh somewhere between 3 to 3.5 pounds and it plays a crucial role in a number of body system functions.
The functions of the liver
The key functions of the liver are to detoxify your blood, and to enhance your digestive system by creating bile, which helps to break down the fats that you consume into small pieces, making them easier for your small intestine to absorb. But that’s not all. Here is a quick summary of what your liver does for you:
- It detoxes your blood, filtering out any harmful and unwanted substances like drugs and alcohol
- It produces bile to aid digestion
- It stores some of your body’s vitamins and iron
- It stores glucose
- It converts glucose into sugar that the body can use when the body’s sugar levels become depleted
- It processes haemoglobin, insulin and a variety of other hormones
- It converts ammonia into urea; an essential ingredient for healthy metabolism
- It eliminates old red blood cells, which produces faecal matter which is normally brown in color. This is why when your stools are discolored (i.e. not brown) it can be an indication there is something wrong with your liver function.
Without a healthy liver, any holistic health lifestyle will become severely compromised, and depending on the nature and severity of disease, could prove fatal; which is why it’s so important to be able to detect and interpret the early symptoms of liver disease.
Liver disease is also sometimes referred to as hepatic disease. When any type of hepatic disease affects up to three quarters of your liver tissue, that’s when a significantly increase in liver function can be detected.
The causes of liver disease
Liver disease can be brought about in a number of different ways.
- Its cells may be inflamed, as with hepatitis
- The passage of bile may become obstructed, as in cholestasis
- A build-up of cholesterol may occur
- The flow of blood to the liver can be damaged
- The tissue of the liver may be attacked and damaged by toxins
Alcohol abuse and cirrhosis of the liver
The most common cause of liver disease in North America is alcohol abuse. The final stage of liver disease (when the liver sustains severe scarring and cannot regenerate replacement tissue), is known as cirrhosis of the liver, and this is responsible for approximately 25,000 deaths per annum here in North America.
The classic symptoms of liver disease
The most frequent and common symptoms of liver disease include:
- Bad breath
- Black circles beneath the eyes
- Bad body odor
- Brown blemishes on the skin
- Coated tongue
- Discolored stools
- Flushed facial appearance
- Inflamed palms and soles of feet
- Swollen eyeballs
- Jaundice-the yellowing of the skin which can often also be evidenced in the whites of the eyes
- Pain – which is felt in the uppermost right hand quadrant of the abdomen
- Increased tendency to perspire excessively
Some people also suffer from fatigue and weight loss.
These symptoms of liver disease relate to hepatic disease in general. But there are also many different, specific, illnesses or diseases that affect the liver, and each of these has its own specific symptoms.
The symptoms of liver disease that are associated with gallstones, include pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen; vomiting, (having eaten a fatty or greasy meal); and if the gallbladder itself becomes infected, this may also bring about a fever.
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