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Types of Liver Problems

Fatty liver

Fatty liver is commonly associated with alcohol or metabolic syndrome (diabetes, hypertension, obesity and dyslipidemia), but can also be due to many other reasons. Fatty liver can occur after drinking moderate or large amounts of alcohol. It can even occur after a short period of heavy drinking (acute alcoholic liver disease).Other factors that may influence your chances of developing fatty liver disease include:Hepatitis C (which can lead to liver inflammation), an overload of iron, obesity, diet.

Despite having multiple causes, fatty liver can be considered a single disease that occurs worldwide in those with excessive alcohol intake and those who are obese (with or without effects of insulin resistance). The condition is also associated with other diseases that influence fat metabolism.

By considering the contribution by alcohol, fatty liver may be termed alcoholic or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Fatty liver disease is often silent, producing no symptoms, especially in the beginning. If the disease advances - which is usually over a period of years, or even decades - it can cause vague problems such as: fatigue, weight loss or loss of appetite, weakness, nausea, impaired judgment, or trouble concentrating. These symptoms may also be present: pain in the center or right upper part of the abdomen, an enlarged liver, skin discoloration.

Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is most commonly caused by alcoholism, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and fatty liver disease, but has many other possible causes. Ascites (fluid retention in the abdominal cavity) is the most common complication of cirrhosis, and is associated with a poor quality of life, increased risk of infection, and a poor long-term outcome. Other potentially life-threatening complications are hepatic encephalopathy (confusion and coma) and bleeding from esophageal varices.

Symptoms may develop gradually, or there may be no symptoms.

When symptoms do occur, they can include: confusion or problem thinking, impotence, loss of interest in sex, breast development in men, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, nosebleeds or bleeding gums, pale or clay-colored stools, swelling or fluid buildup in the abdomen (ascites), vomiting blood or blood in stools, weakness, weight loss, yellow color in the skinor eyes (jaundice).

Hepatitis

Hepatitis is liver inflammation, most commonly caused by a viral infection. Many illnesses and conditions can cause inflammation of the liver, for example, contaminated food/water, drugs, alcohol, chemicals, etc. The liver performs many important functions which keep our bodies healthy, and when the liver is inflamed, it is unable to function properly, which leads to problems. The most common causes of viral hepatitis are five viruses: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis D, and Hepatitis E. In addition to the hepatitis viruses, other viruses that can cause hepatitis include herpes simplex, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, and yellow fever. Typical signs and symptoms of hepatitis include jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin and sclera of the eyes), anorexia (loss of appetite), an enlarged, tender liver (hepatomegaly), abdominal pain and tenderness, nausea and vomiting, fever, and weight loss.

Hepatitis can be caused by
  • immune cells in the body attacking the liver and causing autoimmune hepatitis
  • infections from viruses (such as hepatitis A, B, or C), bacteria, or parasites
  • liver damage from alcohol, poisonous mushrooms, or other poisons
  • medications, such as an overdose of acetaminophen, which can be deadly

Hepatitis may start and get better quickly (acute hepatitis), or cause long-term disease (chronic hepatitis). In some instances, it may lead to liver damage, liver failure, or even liver cancer.

How severe hepatitis is depends on many factors, including the cause of the liver damage and any illnesses you have. Hepatitis A, for example, is usually short-term and does not lead to chronic liver problems.

The symptoms of hepatitis include abdominal pain or distention, breast development in males, dark urine and pale or clay-colored stools, fatigue, fever, general itching, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, weight loss.

Many people with hepatitis B or C do not have symptoms when they are first infected. They can still develop liver failure later. If you have any risk factors for either type of hepatitis, you should be tested regularly.

Ascites

Ascites is excess fluid in the space between the tissues lining the abdomen and abdominal organs. A person with ascites usually has severe liver disease. Ascites due to liver disease is caused by high pressure in the blood vessels of the liver (portal hypertension) and low albumin levels.

Cirrhosis and any illness that leads to it is a common cause of ascites. Long-term infections with hepatitis C or B and long-term alcohol abuse are two of the most common causes of cirrhosis.

Mild ascites is hard to notice, but severe ascites leads to abdominal distension. Patients with ascites generally will complain of progressive abdominal heaviness and pressure as well as shortness of breath.

Jaundice

Jaundice is a yellow color of the skin, mucus membranes, or eyes. The yellow coloring comes from bilirubin, a byproduct of old red blood cells. Jaundice can be a symptom of other health problems.Jaundice is often seen in liver disease such as hepatitis or liver cancer. It may also indicate obstruction of the biliary tract, for example by gallstones or pancreatic cancer.

Everyday, a small number of red blood cells in your body die, and are replaced by new ones. The liver removes the old blood cells, forming bilirubin. The liver helps break down bilirubin so that it can be removed by the body in the stool.When too much bilirubin builds up in the body, jaundice may result. Jaundice can occur if:

  • Too much bilirubin being produced for the liver to remove from the blood. (For example, patients with hemolytic anemia have an abnormally rapid rate of destruction of their red blood cells, which releases large amounts of bilirubin into the blood)
  • A defect in the liver that prevents bilirubin from being removed from the blood, converted to bilirubin/glucuronic acid (conjugated) or secreted in bile.
  • Blockage of the bile ducts that decreases the flow of bile and bilirubin from the liver into the intestines. (For example, the bile ducts can be blocked by cancers, gallstones, or inflammation of the bile ducts).