Liver Diseases

Medical terminology for common liver problems

What is Acute Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is liver swelling as a result of infection or toxic injury . Common causes of acute hepatitis are hepatitis viruses (A, B, C, E), alcohol, certain medications, and herbal drugs.

Symptoms of acute hepatitis :

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice

Most patients with acute hepatitis recover completely in a few weeks. Some severe cases may progress to liver failure which is a life threatening condition.

What is Chronic Hepatitis?

Inflammation or swelling of the liver that lasts for more than six months is known as Chronic Hepatitis. Common causes of chronic hepatitis are hepatitis B or C infection, alcohol, autoimmune liver disease and fatty liver disease. Patients with chronic hepatitis may be completely symptom free or have very few symptoms like loss of appetite and fatigue. Chronic hepatitis may progress to cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver if it is not identified.

What is Cirrhosis?

Normal liver has a smooth surface and is soft to feel. Cirrhosis is the scarring of the liver – hard scar tissue replaces soft healthy tissue. Any long standing liver disease related to excess alcohol use, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, autoimmunity or fatty liver can cause cirrhosis. It usually takes many years for liver damage to lead to cirrhosis. As cirrhosis becomes worse, liver failure develops. Patients with cirrhosis also have a high risk of developing liver cancer. Recognizing liver diseases early and treating them can thus prevent development of cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.

 

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Picture of normal liver and a cirrhotic liver

What is Fatty Liver Disease?

Fatty liver disease is the accumulation of excess fat in the liver. It usually occurs in people who drink alcohol (Alcoholic fatty liver disease). It is also very common in people who are overweight, or in those with diabetes (Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). Except for liver enlargement, it may not cause any symptoms. Over years it can lead to cirrhosis in some patients.

What is Liver Failure?

This is the term used when the liver is unable to perform its functions. The most important symptoms are jaundice, mental confusion, accumulation of fluid in the belly and bleeding tendency. Some patients with acute hepatitis can develop liver failure within a short period of days to weeks. Others with progressive liver disease like cirrhosis develop liver failure after several years. The only way to treat liver failure is by liver transplantation.

What is Hepatocellular (Liver) Cancer?

Patients who have liver cirrhosis are at risk of developing liver cancer. Small liver cancers may not produce any symptoms and can be treated effectively if detected early. It is  important for patients with cirrhosis to do regular checks to detect small cancers.