The liver is one of the largest organs in the human body and processes alcohol and other toxins while removing waste from the blood stream. It also stores useful nutrients such as vitamins, sugars and fats.
According to the American Liver Foundation (ALF), nearly 1 in every 10 Americans suffers from some form of liver disease. ALF said that of the Americans with liver disease, thousands are unaware of their condition. The organization believes that if detected early, several types of liver diseases can be prevented. The founders of ALF also claim that through education, preventative screenings and vaccinations, thousands will be spared this potentially deadly disease.
The Mayo Clinic, which is a nationally recognized not-for-profit facility dedicated to diagnosing and treating complex illnesses, have found that several variations of liver disease affecting millions of Americans exist.
Of the various types of liver disease, the most common types of liver diseases are known as hepatitis, cirrhosis, alcohol-induced liver disease, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which "describes a range of conditions involving the liver that affects people who drink little or no alcohol," as defined by the Mayo Clinic.
Hepatitis is the most common form of liver disease. It occurs when the liver is inflamed and is linked to the spread of various viruses, but can also be developed because of poisons entering the body, an autoimmunity or hereditary condition.
Cirrhosis of the liver, also known as chronic liver disease, is a very serious and deadly form of liver disease.
Cirrhosis of the liver is caused by fibrous tissue developing in the liver that replaces dead liver cells, which may have died because of exposure to viral hepatitis, toxic chemicals or alcohol. Cirrhosis may cause severe scarring of the liver.
Alcohol-induced liver disease is caused through excessive consumption of alcohol primarily from individuals with disorders known as alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse. According to researchers at ALF, alcohol abuse is a leading cause of morbidity and morality around the world. In the United States, nearly 10 percent of men and 3 percent of women suffer from problems related to alcohol consumption, including liver disease.
NAFLD is also known as "fatty liver" disease and it can be caused by several issues such as obesity, diabetes, elevated cholesterol and elevated triglyceride levels. NAFLD can often be difficult to diagnose in beginning stages, but can rapidly worsen. The Mayo Clinic reports that cases of NAFLD can and have progressed to stages of severe cirrhosis or liver cancer.
There are an array of signs that are common among nearly all types of liver disease, according to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Medical Center.
These symptoms include:
If an individual shows any of these signs or symptoms, it is necessary for them to seek medical assistance immediately.
There are several possible risk factors for developing liver disease, although it is difficult to determine some cases and many researchers believe it is unclear as to what the determines NAFLD. According to the UIC Medical Center, the following are several potential causes of liver disease:
Additionally, the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) warned of another potential risk for individuals developing liver disease. The FDA detailed a strong link of liver failure with the Ketek (telithromycin) antibiotic manufactured by Saofi Aventis.
Ketek is used to treat bacterial infections of the lung such as:
The increased warnings were based on findings by the FDA's reviews of the drug's post-marketing adverse events reports. The reports found that:
Within the review, there were 12 cases of acute liver failure among Ketek patients.
The increased risk of liver disease as related to consumption of Ketek caused the FDA to increase the warning label on the prescription drug, although patients of Ketek should cease taking the medication if they feel the signs or symptoms of liver disease.
Treating the various forms of liver disease will vary based on a specific type and case, however, the following are often administered during treatment, according to the UIC Medical Center.
If individuals have an advanced case of liver disease it may be necessary for that patient to undergo a surgical procedure or liver transplant.
Unfortunately, there are treatments that exist in which a patient must have a pint of blood removed once or twice a week for the duration of several months.
Children who are affected by liver disease may even require a surgery known as the Kasai surgery in which a patient will have part of their bile ducts replaced by parts of the intestine.
Any form of liver disease will likely be a time-consuming life-altering condition and often will be very costly in receiving medical assistance.