Without question, the liver is a vital organ, and during Alcohol Awareness Week, it’s an important topic to talk about. Are you familiar with liver disease and liver health? These essential details will help you see why liver testing is right for you and enjoy an easier life.
What are the symptoms of a liver problem?
Since our liver is deep within our bodies, we can’t simply “take a look at it” and know how it’s doing. We rely on other symptoms that seem out of the ordinary daily. Some of the most common liver problem symptoms include having very itchy skin and noticing swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet. It’s also common to have pale-coloured or black stools. Others have frequent bruising and white fingernails and toenails. Lastly, trembling hands and increased sensitivity to drugs and alcohol are also common.
As always, these are typical symptoms. They don’t guarantee that your liver might not be operating at top speed. These symptoms tell you your liver might not operate at top speed.
Types of liver disease
Your liver health can be impacted by several possible liver diseases. Let’s take a look at the most common ones.
This is a fancy term that means your liver is inflamed. Hepatitis can be mild or severe, and it can be short-term or long-term. What you deal with often depends on how you get diagnosed with hepatitis. Ongoing hepatitis can cause liver damage.
Primary biliary cholangitis
This condition is when your liver bile ducts start to die off. Since one of your main liver functions is to release bile, this is an obvious problem. Your immune system attacks your bile ducts, and they degrade and die off. This will impact your liver’s function.
This is a condition where your body absorbs too much iron. This overabsorption can lead to an overloaded liver. Your liver will become inflamed and damaged. This can eventually lead to your liver failing.
Alcohol-related liver disease
As you can guess, this liver disease happens when you take in too much alcohol. One of your liver’s primary functions is to filter alcohol out of your system. If you take in too much, your liver becomes overworked and stressed. This can lead to damage, long-term.
Liver disease vs liver failure
Understanding the difference between liver disease and liver failure is essential since they are very different. Liver disease is a disorder in your liver. The disorder interrupts its function and needs support or treatment.
Liver failure, on the other hand, means that your liver is no longer functioning correctly because it is damaged and will not respond to treatment. Once you enter liver failure, you would need a new liver (from a donor).
How to live with liver disease
Liver disease is not the end of the road by any stretch. You can still have a fulfilled and healthy life. You simply need to make changes to help protect your liver as much as possible. Firstly, get liver testing to know if you’re dealing with normal or abnormal liver results. Abnormal liver test results will mean a trip to your GP to get more detail on what’s going on. Information is always the first step!
Living with liver disease may mean a few changes to how you interact with the world. The goal will be to stay healthy and as safe from bacteria and viruses as possible to protect your liver. Top tips for liver health include:
- Stay clear from people who are sick (rather it is a common cold or pneumonia).
- Keep your hands clean (including your fingernails) and covered (ex: wash your hands after using the bathroom, wear disposable gloves when handling pet faeces, etc.).
- Keep your teeth healthy by brushing and flossing daily and visiting the dentist as directed.
- Carefully clean cuts and scrapes; use a sturdy plaster to cover them as they heal.
The goal is to protect any potential weak point in your body that make unintentionally cause you to make yourself sick with a cold, the flu, or a more severe virus.
Is liver disease common?
Liver disease is not the most common health condition. The problem is that it can develop “silently” in that most people are unaware they even have a liver health problem until it has progressed very far. This is why liver testing is so important; it’s the warning bell to help you get more diagnostics. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to protect yourself.
Liver health is imperative for a healthy and happy life. Learning about the potential signs of liver disease and what to do if you notice them will help you stay in the know about your liver function. From there, you can focus on understanding what you need to know to help keep yourself in the best shape possible.