Types of Liver Damage
by Brent Sandmeyer
Types of Liver Damage
A healthy liver helps you digest food, process toxins and regulate your metabolism. But viruses, chemicals and even hereditary conditions can damage your liver, sometimes to the point of liver failure. Keep an eye out for the symptoms of these common types of liver damage.
Cirrhosis is the most common type of liver damage, but is actually only a symptom of a wide variety of liver problems. Cirrhosis occurs when healthy liver tissue is scarred by prolonged inflammation, usually caused by chronic alcohol abuse, hepatitis or a condition known as fatty liver.
Cirrhosis almost never shows symptoms until an advanced stage. At this advanced stage, you may experience yellowed skin from jaundice, fluid build up in the legs or abdomen and prolonged itching.
Liver cancer, characterized by the growth of malignant tumors in liver tissue, can start directly in the liver or metastasize there from a cancer in another part of your body. Either way, there may be few or no symptoms until the cancer is well advanced, at which time you may experience jaundice, fatigue and nausea from the liver damage.
Your chances of developing liver cancer are increased if you have cirrhosis or hepatitis and if you are obese or a smoker. If you fit several of those criteria, you are at particular risk.
Hemochromatosis is a condition in which your body cannot process iron as normal, causing excess iron to pool in your liver. This can lead to liver damage and failure and a host of other medical issues such as diabetes, arthritis and heart problems.
See a doctor if you experience a combination of abdominal pain, fatigue, loss of body hair or an overall darkening of the skin.
Liver cysts are small pockets of fluid in the liver that may be present from birth or occur in response to liver disease, a parasitic infection or liver cancer. Cysts usually do not damage the liver, but in some cases, they can swell and cause abdominal pain. In such cases, a doctor will need to drain the cyst.
A liver abscess, or pus-filled sac, can result from bacterial infection, consumption of amoebic cysts or fungal infection. You may experience sharp pains in your abdomen as well as chills, fever, diarrhea or jaundice.
Liver abscesses are potentially life threatening, and you should seek diagnosis and treatment immediately. Doctors may attempt to drain the abscess as well as prescribe a series of antibiotics or other medication to eradicate the source of the infection.