Liver disease is any disturbance of liver function that causes illness. The liver is responsible for many critical functions within the body and should it become diseased or injured, the loss of those functions can cause significant damage to the body. Liver disease is also referred to as hepatic disease.
Liver disease is a broad term that covers all the potential problems that cause the liver to fail to perform its designated functions. Usually, more than 75% or three quarters of liver tissue needs to be affected before a decrease in function occurs.
The liver is the largest solid organ in the body; and is also considered a gland because among its many functions, it makes and secretes bile. The liver is located in the upper right portion of the abdomen protected by the rib cage. It has two main lobes that are made up of tiny lobules. The liver cells have two different sources of blood supply. The hepatic artery supplies oxygen rich blood that is pumped from the heart, while the portal vein supplies nutrients from the intestine and the spleen.
Normally, veins return blood from the body to the heart, but the portal vein allows nutrients and chemicals from the digestive tract to enter the liver for processing and filtering prior to entering the general circulation. The portal vein also efficiently delivers the chemicals and proteins that liver cells need to produce the proteins, cholesterol, and glycogen required for normal body activities.
Symptoms of liver diseases include weakness and fatigue, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, and yellow discoloration of the skin (jaundice).
The liver plays an important role in many bodily functions from protein production and blood clotting to cholesterol, glucose (sugar), and iron metabolism.
Many diseases and conditions can affect the liver, for example, certain drugs like excessive amounts of acetaminophen, and acetaminophen combination medications like Vicodin, Norco, and statins, cirrhosis, alcohol abuse,hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E, infectious mononucleosis (Epstein Barr virus), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NASH), and iron overload (hemochromatosis).