Liver disease occurs for several different reasons. Learning how it develops and finding out more about the different types can help you stay educated on how to take care of your health — and learn how to manage it if you have it.
As a board-certified internal medicine physician and gastroenterologist who specializes in liver disease, Dr. Ewelukwa and our skilled team at Imperial Digestive Health Specialists PLLC can help you understand how liver disease begins, what the symptoms look like, the three main types you should be aware of, and why treatment is so important.
Understanding liver disease
Did you know that the liver is your second largest organ after your skin? It’s about the size of a football, and it’s situated beneath the right side of your ribcage. Responsible for separating nutrients from waste, your liver aids digestion and carries toxins out of your body through the production of bile.
Liver disease is a broad-based term for several conditions that can affect this vital organ. Symptoms include:
- Yellowish eyes and skin
- Itchy skin
- Abdominal swelling
- Swelling in your legs and ankles
- Dark urine
- Pale-colored stool
- Chronic fatigue
If you notice any combination of these symptoms, reach out to our team right away for a prompt evaluation.
Common types of liver disease
Liver disease is a group of liver-affecting disorders. Here’s a closer look at three of its most common forms:
Infections that cause inflammation in your liver are usually caused by hepatitis, a group of viruses which causes three distinct types of liver-affecting illness:
This type occurs when you eat or drink something that has fecal matter in it. It usually resolves itself within six months without harm.
You get hepatitis B from another person, usually via unprotected sex or sharing needles. It can lead to liver cancer and other diseases if the condition persists for longer than 6 months.
Hepatitis C occurs when your blood comes in contact with infected blood. The use of unclean needles is a common cause, and symptoms might not show up for years.
Hepatitis can also be caused by certain medications, toxins, heavy alcohol use, and certain medical conditions.
Fatty liver disease
There are two types of fatty liver disease:
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
This type occurs when you have a buildup of fat in your liver cells that are unrelated to alcohol use. While it’s normal for your liver to have some fat, if it exceeds the 5-10% range by weight, it’s considered fatty.
Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
NASH can develop if you’re overweight, obese, or have high cholesterol. It’s also possible to have NASH without any risk factors. This type of liver disease is a leading cause of cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis means you have scarring on your liver. When your liver becomes scarred from inflammation, it replaces healthy soft tissue with hard tissue. As the condition becomes worse, the liver has less healthy tissue to thrive on.
Cirrhosis is mainly caused by:
- Bile duct disease
- Genetic diseases
Though these three types of liver disease are the most common, you could suffer from other types not listed here.
Treatment for liver disease
If you have liver disease, lifestyle changes can dramatically improve the health of your liver and your life. If you stop drinking alcohol and work toward getting your weight within a healthy range, you can prevent further damage. We can also prescribe medications, as needed, that can protect your liver from damaging infections.
In cases where treatment fails because your liver has sustained too much damage, a liver transplant is the next — and final — treatment option.
Proper and prompt liver disease management can help you avoid complications, reduce your risk of needing a liver transplant, and protect your long-term health. To learn more about liver disease and how we can help, call our office in Katy, Texas, at 281-305-0423, send us a text at 832-639-5725, or click online to schedule a visit today.