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The liver is a large organ that is situated on the right side of the belly. It weighs around 3 pounds and is reddish- brown in color and it feels like rubber to touch. It is protected by the rib cage. The liver is made up of two large sections, the right, and the left lobe. The gallbladder is situated under the liver, along with the pancreas and intestines. The liver with these other organs helps to digest, absorb, and process food. It is majorly the energy storehouse of the body.
The main function of the liver is to filter the blood that comes from the digestive tract before it passes through the other parts of the body. The other functions of the liver include detoxifying chemicals and metabolizing drugs. During this process, the liver secretes bile that ends up back in the intestines. The liver also helps is making proteins important for blood clotting and other functions.
Common problems associated with the liver
Any disturbance of the liver function that causes illness is said to be a liver disease. The liver is responsible for many important functions of the body, and any disease of the liver can cause significant damage to the body. Liver disease is an umbrella term used to describe many problems associated with the liver. If more than 75% of the liver tissues are damaged, the liver functions are affected and may lead to its failure. Below are some common liver diseases:
1. Hepatitis– hepatitis usually means inflammation of the liver. This is caused due to an attack of viruses like Hepatitis A, B, and C. Hepatitis A is a viral infection that is spread mainly through the fecal-oral route when small quantities of infected fecal matters are accidentally ingested. Hepatitis A causes an acute inflammation of the liver which normally resolves on its own. Hepatitis B spreads by exposure to body fluids and can cause an acute infection, mainly due to needles from drug abusers, contaminated blood, and sexual contact. The sharp progress of the infection can cause chronic inflammation (chronic hepatitis) that can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Hepatitis C causes chronic hepatitis and is also caused due to the same reasons as of Hepatitis B.
2. Cirrhosis– Long-term damage to the liver from any cause can lead to permanent scarring, called cirrhosis. Each time the liver is injured due to many different reasons, it tries to repair itself. In this process, scar tissue forms. As cirrhosis develops to later stages, more and more scar tissue forms, making it difficult for the liver to function well. This condition occurs when more than 75% of liver cells are damaged and furthermore damage can restrict liver functions and cause liver failure. The damage caused by liver cirrhosis generally cannot be reversed. But if liver cirrhosis is diagnosed early and the cause is treated, further damage can be limited.
3. Liver Cancer– Quite a few types of cancers can form in the liver. The most common type of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, always occurs after cirrhosis has reached an untreatable stage. Liver cancer occurs when liver cells develop changes in their DNA and the cells grow uncontrollably and eventually form a tumor.
4. Liver failure– this is almost the last stage of every liver problem. In many conditions, when the liver stops functioning with more than 75% of its tissues damaged that cannot be recovered, liver failure occurs.
The other conditions that cause liver diseases include Ascites (leakage of the liver fluid (ascites) into the belly, which becomes distended and heavy), Gallstones ( occurs when a gallstone gets stuck in the bile duct that drains the liver causing hepatitis and bile duct infection), Hemochromatosis (condition of iron deposits in the liver) Primary sclerosing cholangitis (causes inflammation and scarring in the bile ducts in the liver) and Primary biliary cirrhosis (a rare disorder with an unclear process that slowly destroys the bile ducts in the liver causing permanent liver scarring).
What is liver cancer?
Primary cancers of the liver arise from liver structures and cells. Liver cancer occurs when liver cells develop changes in their DNA and the cells grow uncontrollably causing a tumor. There are quite a few types of cancers that form in the liver, but the most common is the hepatocellular carcinoma, which begins in the main type of liver cell (hepatocyte). The other cancers that follow are intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatoblastoma but are less common. Not all cancers that affect the liver are considered to be liver cancer. Cancer that starts in a different organ like colon, lung or breast or stomach can also spread to the liver at later stages. This type of cancer that affects the liver is called metastatic cancer and is usually named after the organ where cancer started. For example, metastatic lung cancer is cancer has begun in the lung and has spread to the liver. Cancer that spreads to the liver is more common than cancer that begins in the liver cells unless the liver cells have its own reason for the damage resulting in liver cancer.
Most of the people do not have signs and symptoms of liver cancer in early stages. But at later stages, they may develop symptoms like loss of weight and appetite, upper abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, general weakness and fatigue, abdominal swelling, yellow discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice) and white, chalky stools. Chronic infections with certain hepatitis viruses can lead to liver cancer. People diagnosed with Hep A, B, and C, Cirrhosis, Inherited liver diseases, Diabetes, and Nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with liver cancer in the future. People who are also exposed to certain chemicals and alcohol consumption can also develop cancer.
Liver cancer can be diagnosed with the help of Blood tests (to reveal liver functions abnormalities), imaging tests (CT, MRI or PET CT) and Liver biopsy (removing a sample of liver tissue for testing). Liver cancer can be treated and cured only if it is diagnosed at an early stage. The cancerous tumor can be removed if detected at an early stage or the damaged liver can be transplanted with a healthy liver with the help of a donor. Other treatments include heating/freezing the cancer cells, injecting pure alcohol into the tumor, chemotherapy and placing radiation filled beads in the liver.
Liver Failure – When the majority of the liver cells are damaged and cannot be restored with any of these above options, the liver stops functioning and results in liver failure. Liver failure occurs gradually and over many years. A rare condition known as acute liver failure happens very quickly may be as quick as within 48 hours and can be difficult to detect initially. Causes of liver failure are similar to that what cause liver diseases like long-term alcohol consumption, Cirrhosis, Hemochromatosis, and malnutrition. But the causes for the acute liver are different and can occur due to Acetaminophen (Tylenol) overdose, Hepatitis Infections (especially in children), reactions to certain prescription and herbal medications and Ingestion of poisonous wild mushrooms.
Liver function tests and it’s benefits
The liver is the largest organ of the body and very important too. It helps is the most critical functions of the body to keep up the health. It helps in the breakdown of food, makes proteins, produces bile, removes toxins and stores energy. If there is any dysfunction that happens with the liver, it may have a great impact on your body and your health. Hence, it is very important to have regular liver function tests to make sure your liver is functioning properly.
Liver function tests are blood tests that help in diagnosing and monitoring liver diseases or liver damage. These tests measure the levels of certain enzymes, proteins in the blood and the function of clearing bilirubin (a blood waste). Sometimes abnormal test results may not always indicate liver disease; it may be a cause of some other disease or infection too. A patient may be advised for a liver function test when symptoms like loss of weight and appetite, upper abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, general weakness and fatigue, abdominal swelling, yellow discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice) and white, chalky stools show up. There are different types of liver function blood tests as mentioned below:
1. Alanine transaminase (ALT) test– ALT is an enzyme that helps break down proteins and is found mainly in your liver. If the liver is damaged or not functioning properly, ALT is released into the blood resulting in the increase of ALT levels in the blood. High values of ALT test can be a sign of liver damage. A normal level of ALT ranges between 7 – 55 units per liter (U/L).
2. Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) test– Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) is an enzyme found in several parts of your body, including the heart, liver, and muscles. Since AST values are not liver specific, this test is usually taken jointly with ALT test, in a ratio. Increased values of AST may indicate liver damage or disease or muscles. A normal level of AST ranges between 10 – 40 units per liter (U/L)
3. Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) test– Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) is an enzyme found in your bones, bile ducts, and liver. Usually, this test is prescribed in a combination of several other tests. High level of ALP may indicate liver damage or disease, a blocked bile duct, or bone disease. Normal range – 44 to 147 IU/L.
4. Albumin and total protein test– the liver makes two main proteins, albumin, and globulin. They perform functions like, stop the fluid leakage out of blood vessels, nourishment of tissues and transportation of hormones, vitamins and other substances throughout the body. Low values of these proteins may indicate that the liver is not functioning properly. The normal range is 5 to 5.5 g/dL or 35-55 g/liter. Albumin composes 50%-60% of blood plasma proteins.
5. Bilirubin test– bilirubin is blood waste which produced upon the breakdown of the red blood cells. It is processed by the liver and this waste passes through the liver before getting excreted through the stool. High level of bilirubin may cause a condition called jaundice. A normal level of Direct (also called conjugated) bilirubin should be less than 3 mg/dL(less than 5.1 µmol/L) and Total bilirubin should be 0.1 to 1.2 mg/dL (1.71 to 20.5 µmol/L).
Other tests that may be prescribed are Gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT) test, L-lactate dehydrogenase (LD) test and Prothrombin time (PT) test (time taken for the blood to clot). As few foods and medications may affect the liver function test, the doctor may ask you not to eat, drink or take any medicines 10 to 12 hours before the test.
Liver Function Tests with BookMyScans – how helpful is it?
Internet convention is taking new stature in today’s web-connected world. It has eventually changed the way we used to work around booking appointments with doctors and diagnostic centers, by waiting long hours, first to book an appointment and then to get the tests done. Bookmyscans.com is an online guide that assists you with information on the recent diseases and their effects on your body and how you can prevent them. We provide preventive tests packages that include several tests that help in early diagnosis of chronic diseases. Liver Function Test is one of them. Taking up preventive Liver Function Tests will help in early diagnosis of any infection, inflammation or damage to the liver cells and prevent Liver Cancer/Failure.
You can log on to Bookmyscans.com to know more about these tests, how useful is it, find the nearest diagnostic center to take the test and moreover get great discounts on these tests compared to the standard market rates. We have successfully served more than 10,000 people and helped them save around 1.2 crores by now. BookMyScans partners only with the Scan centers that are ISO and NABL certified. These scan centers are also audited periodically to make sure they deliver consistent quality services and have the technical competence for testing. BookMyScans can be accessed round the clock and you can depend on us for the best quality results. Quick access to the reports online and a download option is an added advantage you cannot afford to miss.
To protect your liver from damage, drink alcohol in limits, avoid risks like use of illicit intravenous drugs, don’t share needles used to inject drugs, have safe intercourse, get vaccinated for Hepatitis, use medications wisely, Avoid contact with other people’s blood and body fluids (Hepatitis viruses can spread accidentally by needle sticks), Take care with aerosol sprays and make sure the room is ventilated, wear a mask when spraying insecticides, fungicides, paint and other toxic chemicals, protect your skin and maintain a healthy diet and weight.