The liver is located under the rib cage on the right side of your abdomen. Liver functions by helping with the digestion process and breakdown of toxic substances. Liver damage can lead to liver failure that can also be life-threatening. Liver diseases can be inherited genetically and there are many other causes that may affect your liver. Alcohol consumption is the most common and major factor that can adversely damage your liver. Onlymyhealth editorial team talked to Dr. Deepak Lahoti, Director - Gastroenterology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Patparganj, about the symptoms, causes, types, diagnosis, treatment and diet suggestions for people suffering from liver diseases.
Types of liver diseases
The liver performs many functions to keep a human body healthy and working. However, there are many kinds of liver diseases that occur due to liver damage and inflammation. As per Dr. Deepak Lahoti, there are majorly two types of liver diseases. They are:
Acute jaundice because of hepatitis like acute hepatitis A and acute hepatitis B. These are very common in our country because they are water borne diseases that may affect the liver.
Chronic health diseases are triggered by Hepatitis B and hepatitis C. These are infections that can have a negative impact on your liver. Chronic Liver diseases might stay for a long time and the recovery period is also long.
3. Alcoholic liver disease (ALD)
Apart from these, there can be problems of liver which you find in people who drink alcohol. This is called alcoholic liver disease. Alcohol is a common factor affecting your liver.
4. Fatty liver disease
The most common type of liver disease is called fatty liver disease. This happens with people who do not drink alcohol and is known as non alcoholic fatty liver disease.(NAFLD). This kind of fatty liver is very commonly associated with obesity and diabetes. Both diabetes and obesity are on rise in every part of the world. It is almost like an epidemic of obesity and diabetes which has come up in the last two decades.
Symptoms of liver diseases
Liver disease doesn't always cause noticeable signs and symptoms. However, you might experience slight changes in yourself. If the signs and symptoms of liver disease do occur, you should visit the doctor. According to Dr. Deepak, the symptoms of liver diseases are:
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of weight
- Pain and discomfort in right upper quadrant
- Accumulation of water in stomach
- Accumulation of water in the feet that causes swelling
Severe symptoms or red flag signs that give an indication to the patient that it is time to visit the doctor are:
- Progressive jaundice
- Severe loss of appetite
- Swelling in the face or stomach
Causes of liver diseases
Parasites and viruses can infect the liver, disturbing the functions of liver. This can even spread in the whole body through the bloodstream of a person. As per Dr. Deepak, here are the major causes of liver diseases:
1. Hepatitis C and B
Hepatitis C occurs by an infection that is caused by a virus. This can damage the liver, resulting in severe inflammation. On the other hand, hepatitis B is a very severe liver infection which can be treated through vaccines.
Jaundice can also make the liver inflammed and makes your skin and eyes go yellow in colour. Jaundice is a cause of waste material buildup in the blood, further causing severe liver damage.
3. Certain medicines
Drug induced jaundice can also occur in some people. The medications given for tuberculosis (TB) very often causes jaundice, resulting in severe liver diseases. Therefore, certain medicines can also be a reason behind liver diseases.
4. COVID-19 and other infections
Even COVID-19 can also cause liver dysfunction very frequently. Coronavirus can also affect your liver adversely. Various infections can also cause jaundice, further resulting in liver diseases.
5. Genetic factor
There are certain diseases which are very uncommon and are genetically inherited, for example, Gilbert's syndrome. These diseases can also cause jaundice. Therefore, genetic factor can also be a factor behind liver diseases.
Other reason for jaundice could be cancer which may obstruct the flow of our bile. So, an ultrasound is very helpful in differentiating between an obstruction and hepatitis or infection. So, liver cancer is also another cause for the damage.
7. Gall bladder stones
Gall bladder stones can even cause jaundice by obstructing the flow of bile. So, gallstones are also a major reason behind liver diseases. The gallstones can cause bile duct infection and severe pain too.
Liver problems diagnosis and treatment
Dr. Deepak said, "Once you suspect that you have a liver problem, the person has to go for a full physical examination and blood test. There is also a liver function test to check the stage of the liver disease. Hepatitis markers like hepatitis B, C,A and D are also used for diagnosis. An ultrasound might also be very helpful in such health conditions." The treatment for liver diseases totally depends on the cause and etiology of jaundice. He further added and said, "If it is a fatty liver disease which is basically a lifestyle disease, then the treatment would be very very strict. Control of blood sugar, weight loss and other liver medications can be given in such situations. None of the medications have been approved by the government worldwide."
Lifestyle modifications for liver diseases
Most of the patients who might not have symptoms and don't drink alcohol might have NAFLD, because of obesity and diabetes. Although they are asymptomatic, they night be having ongoing injuries. There is a large amount of people under the surface of this problem. These people who are not very much symptomatic have large opportunity to correct their liver disorder by observing better lifestyle. The lifestyle modifications that a liver disease patient can make are:
- Restrict alcohol consumption
- Take a balanced diet
- Exercise daily
- Maintain blood sugar level
Diet for liver diseases
Your diet plays a major role in improving any health condition. The recovery rate of a lot of diseases increases if you consume a nutritious balanced diet everyday. According to Dr. Deepak, here is the diet recommendation for patients suffering from liver diseases:
1. Low or no fat diet
Fats are strictly restricted for a person having liver disease due to fatty liver. In such cases, a balanced low or now fat diet can help in treating the condition. The fat intake is reduced by recommending foods like green leafy vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, garlic, fish, etc.
2. Non-spicy diet
A non- spicy diet can also be good for a patient suffering from liver disease. Oily and spicy foods can increase weight very speedily so these should be avoided if you're trying to lose weight. Instead, consume more fruits, whole grains, salads, etc.
3. Low calorie diet
If the cause behind liver disease is obesity, then the aim should be weight reduction. The diet for weight loss is suggested depending on the person's profession. If they are really heavy performers like manual labourers or farmers, then they need higher calorie per day. But if they are white collar people, then they need much lesser calorie count.
These were the types, symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and diet suggestions for liver diseases by gastroenterologist Dr. Deepak Lohati. If you experience any of the above listed symptoms, you should isit the doctor immediately for further treatment. And, making lifestyle moderations can also help in coping up with liver diseases.
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