About the Liver
The liver performs many important jobs in your body, so it's important to know how to take care of your liver.
Mar 21, 2016Your Body
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By: Kidist Yimam, MD
Director, Autoimmune Liver Disease Program
California Pacific Medical Center
San Francisco, CA
Why is the liver important?
The liver is the second largest organ in your body, weighing about three pounds. It is located under the right rib cage and is shaped like a football flattened on one side.
The liver performs many jobs in your body, including processing what you eat and drink into energy and nutrients your body can use. It also removes harmful substances from your blood.
How can you take care of your liver?
Facts About Your Liver
Common Liver Diseases and Prevention
Liver disease is a general term that refers to any abnormal process (infection, poisoning or cancer, for example) that affects liver tissues. Without a functioning liver, the body cannot sustain life. If about three-quarters of your liver tissue is severely damaged, your liver will begin to fail and you may need a liver transplant.
According to the American Liver Foundation, one in 10 Americans is affected by liver disease. Liver disease is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States.
There are more than 100 liver diseases. Below are some of the most common liver diseases and ways you can help prevent them and keep your liver healthy:
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV can cause the liver to swell and not work well. It is most commonly transmitted through person-to-person contact and is generally limited to close contacts. Transmission through blood products is uncommon.
Prevention: Hepatitis A vaccination is the best way to prevent infection by HAV. Other ways to stop the spread of HAV are:
Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). HBV can cause the liver to swell and can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Prevention: Hepatitis B vaccination is the best way to prevent HBV. Other ways to stop the spread of HBV are:
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV can cause the liver to swell and can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Prevention: There is no vaccine to prevent HCV. The only way to prevent HCV is to avoid direct contact with infected blood. Other ways to stop the spread of HCV are:
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
Fatty liver disease is the build-up of fat in liver cells. It can cause the liver to swell and can lead to cirrhosis and, rarely, has been known to cause liver cancer.
Prevention: Ways to prevent fatty liver disease are:
Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)
NASH is a type of fatty liver disease associated with liver inflammation. It causes the liver to swell and become damaged due to reasons unrelated to alcohol.
Prevention: Ways to prevent NASH are:
Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC)
PBC is a progressive autoimmune disease (your immune system attacking your own body) that damages or destroys the bile ducts in the liver. When the ducts are destroyed, bile builds up in the liver contributing to inflammation and scarring (fibrosis). Eventually this can lead to cirrhosis and associated complications, as scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue and liver function becomes increasingly impaired.
Prevention: The exact cause of PBC is unknown. However, it is known that PBC is not caused by alcohol or illegal drug use. It is an autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically susceptible individualsand cannot be prevented.
Alcohol-Related Liver Disease
Alcohol-related liver disease is caused by drinking too much alcohol. It can cause the liver to swell and can lead to scarring and then cirrhosis.
Prevention: The best way to prevent alcohol-related liver disease is to not drink more alcohol than what your health care provider recommends.
This resource was created with the support of Intercept Pharmaceuticals.
For more information, visit www.livingwithPBC.com.