Liver disease: potentially deadly, and avoidable

September 11, 2017 | by Sivakami Krishnan, MD
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

The liver does not get the respect it deserves.

It may not have as glamorous a job as the heart, constantly pumping blood through your entire body, but it works just as hard and has a crucial function.

The liver is like a clearinghouse, a deep-cleaner for the things we ingest. It decides what’s useful, and lets that pass through into our blood. It sifts out the waste, converts it to a safe substance and sends it on its way to be eliminated.

Your liver also keeps your blood sugar level in check. It filters alcohol and medication byproducts out of your blood. Pretty amazing, right?

When something goes wrong with your liver, you may not have any symptoms at first. As the American Liver Foundation reports, you may eventually experience fatigue, weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, spider-like blood vessels, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), itching, fluid build-up and swelling of the legs (edema) and abdomen (ascites), and mental confusion.

Your doctor may suspect fatty liver disease if your blood shows high levels of liver enzymes. A diagnosis of fatty liver disease often requires a biopsy or an ultrasound.

Severe fatty liver disease can lead to a build-up of scar tissue in your liver (cirrhosis), which is not reversible and can lead to liver failure.

Even if you don’t drink alcohol (which can damage your liver if you regularly drink heavily), your liver can develop fatty liver disease, or an excess of fat cells in the liver.

Fatty liver disease is more likely to develop in people who are overweight or obese, have diabetes, high cholesterol, poor eating habits or even rapid weight loss.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will go a long way toward avoiding problems with your liver. Eat right, stay at a healthy weight, drink alcohol in moderation, exercise and don’t overdo it on medication.

Diagnosed early enough, fatty liver disease is reversible – and healthy weight loss is the best way to do it.

Learn more about how to keep your liver healthy, and possible signs of declining liver function, at noon Oct. 5 at Elmhurst Hospital! Sign up to attend this free Lunch & Learn.

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