Posts Tagged ‘liver transplant’

Living With Your Liver

October 20th, 2022

Your liver is the second largest organ in your body, behind only your skin. The liver is also the largest gland. It makes and secretes chemicals that are used by other parts of your body to perform key processes. Your liver sits just under your ribcage on your right side. It’s about the size of a football and weighs on average about 3.5 pounds.

The liver is essential for life. It performs more than 500 vital functions that keep your body healthy and working properly. These functions include storing nutrients; removing toxins, waste products and worn-out cells from your blood; filtering and processing chemicals in food, alcohol and medications; and producing bile, a fluid that helps in digestion.

Liver disease is any disorder that negatively impacts the healthy performance of your liver. There are many disorders that fall under this umbrella. They include:

• Viral infections, such as hepatitis.
• Diseases associated with consuming too many toxins, including alcohol-related liver disease and fatty liver disease.
• Inherited diseases, such as hemochromatosis, Wilson disease and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.
• Conditions that occur when your immune system mistakenly attacks your liver, such as autoimmune hepatitis, primary sclerosing cholangitis and primary biliary cholangitis.
• Liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), a condition in which the cells in your liver develop abnormally and grow out of control.
Cirrhosis, a condition in which your liver is severely scarred and permanently damaged.

Without treatment, these conditions can ultimately lead to liver failure, when large parts of your liver become damaged and can’t function anymore. At this point, you may require a liver transplant, when your diseased liver is removed and replaced with a healthy liver from a donor.

Certain factors increase your risk for liver disease. The most well-known is heavy drinking, which is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as more than eight alcoholic drinks per week for women and more than 15 drinks per week for men.

Other risk factors include:

• A family history of liver disease.
• Diabetes or high cholesterol.
• A job that exposes you to blood and other body fluids.
• Being overweight or obese.
• Taking certain supplements or herbs, especially in large amounts.
• Mixing certain medications with alcohol.
• Taking more than the recommended dose of certain medications.
• Sharing needles for drug use.
• Having unprotected sex.

Each liver disease has its own signs and symptoms, but some common ones to be aware of include jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes; bleeding or easy bruising; swelling of the legs or ankles; pain in the abdomen; itchy skin; dark urine; pale, bloody or black stools; a buildup of fluid in the belly, called ascites; and fatigue.

To diagnose liver disease, your doctor will review your history and symptoms and perform a thorough physical examination. The doctor will also recommend certain tests, bloodwork to measure liver enzymes. Abnormal levels may indicate problems with your liver function.

Your doctor may also use imaging tests, such as ultrasound, MRI or CT, to look for signs of damage, scarring or tumors in your liver. Another test your doctor may suggest is a liver biopsy, during which a needle is used to remove a small sample of liver tissue for analysis.

Treatment depends on the type of disease and how far it has progressed. In general, treatment for includes medications and lifestyle changes. Medications may include antiviral drugs to treat hepatitis, steroids to reduce inflammation, antibiotics and other medications to target specific symptoms. An organ transplant is a last resort for liver failure.

While not all diseases can be prevented, you can help keep your liver healthy by making some key lifestyle choices, such as:

• Eat a liver-friendly diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and fiber.
• Exercise regularly.
• Limit alcohol consumption.
• Avoid smoking and using drugs.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Practice safe sex.
• Don’t take more than the recommended dose of medications.
• Drink more water to help remove toxins and flush liver tissues
• Visit a doctor annually for a physical and bloodwork.

October is Liver Awareness Month. Follow these suggestions and live with a healthier liver.

Patti DiPanfilo

Homing In On Hepatitis

May 22nd, 2022

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. Although awareness may already be high due to a current mysterious pediatric outbreak that has affected more than 500 children in 20 countries and more than 180 kids in the US over the past six months.

Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver, and when your liver is inflamed, its ability to function can be compromised. Hepatitis is most commonly caused by a viral infection, although there are other causes as well. We’re concentrating on viral hepatitis in this blog.

There are five known types of viral hepatitis classified as hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. In the US, the most frequently diagnosed, affecting an estimated 4.4 million Americans, are hepatitis A, B and C.

Hepatitis is most commonly caused by a viral infection, although there are other causes as well. / CDC

Each of these conditions is caused by a different virus: the hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis A. B and C have similar symptoms but are spread in different ways and can affect the liver differently.

Regarding the current outbreak: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating cases with unknown causes in 36 states and territories. Though most children have recovered, at least five have died and 16 needed a liver transplant. As of May 20, the illness of one Florida child under 10 was under investigation, but state officials said there are no confirmed cases.

The most common symptoms of hepatitis include: dark urine, yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice), clay-colored stool, low-grade fever, loss of appetite, fatigue and aching joints. You may also feel sick to your stomach or have stomach pain. If you experience any or a combination of these symptoms, contact your doctor right away.

To diagnose hepatitis, your doctor will perform a physical exam and review of your symptoms. The doctor will use blood tests to check for the presence of the virus and may also use liver function tests to see how your liver is working, an abdominal ultrasound to look for liver damage or enlargement, or a liver biopsy to sample any abnormal areas of your liver and study them under a microscope.

Hepatitis A is usually a short-term illness that doesn’t lead to a chronic, or long-lasting, infection. The hepatitis A virus is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected. Hepatitis A, which is highly contagious, is commonly spread by eating contaminated food or drink. It can also be spread through close personal contact with someone who is infected, such as during oral or anal sex.

There is no cure for hepatitis A. Treatment typically consists of rest, adequate nutrition and fluids. In rare cases, people with hepatitis A require hospitalization. This type of hepatitis normally resolves within two months without having any long-term effects, and you will have lifelong immunity afterward.

Hepatitis B is spread through contact with body fluids such as blood, vaginal secretions and semen containing the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Your risk for getting hepatitis B increases if you inject drugs or if you have sex or share razors with someone who has it.

Some people with hepatitis B, particularly those who get infected as adults, are able to clear the virus from their bodies without treatment. For others, short-term hepatitis B progresses into a chronic, lifelong infection that over time can result in serious health problems such as liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death.

When treatment for hepatitis B is needed, there are several medications available and others in development. However, people who start hepatitis B treatment may need to take medication indefinitely because these medications do not lead to a cure.

Hepatitis C is one of the most common causes of liver disease in the US and used to be the primary reason for liver transplants. The infection is chronic in 75 to 85 percent of people who have it, and 1 to 5 percent experience life-threatening complications, such as liver failure.

Hepatitis C is spread by coming into contact with the blood of a person who is infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). This can happen if you share drug injection equipment; have sex with someone who is infected; or share personal items such as razors, nail clippers or toothbrushes with an infected person. In addition, about 6 percent of infants born to infected mothers will get hepatitis C.

Treatment is recommended for all people including children 3 and older and pregnant women with hepatitis C. Treatment involves taking medication for a course of eight to 12 weeks. The cure rate with this therapy is more than 90 percent with few side effects.

To help prevent hepatitis, there are vaccines against hepatitis A and B, but there is no vaccine available for hepatitis C.

By Patti DiPanfilo

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