Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Our Liver - Its Function, Location, Disease and Treatment

The liver is not only the largest internal organ but also the in the human body. The liver performs several important functions that are vital for our survival. This triangular shaped organ has four lobes, rests below the diaphragm, and weighs around 3.2 lb - 3.7 lb in a healthy adult. The liver is protected from injury by the rib cage.
Two very important blood vessels, namely the hepatic artery and the portal vein are connected to the liver. The latter carries blood enriched with nutrients collected from the digestive system. Both blood vessels supply oxygen to the liver.
Functions of the liver include -
· Carbohydrate metabolism
· Fat metabolism
· Removal of toxins, bilirubin, drugs, hormones, and alcohol
· Production of cholesterol; 80% of the cholesterol is produced in the liver
· Conversion of glucose into glycogen for storage
· Bile formation and excretion
· Storage of iron and hemoglobin processing
· Storage of vitamins A, D, K, and B12
The liver is susceptible to many diseases and conditions. Here are some of the conditions that the liver is susceptible to -
· Alcoholic liver disease - It is caused by overconsumption of alcohol. Conditions that characterize alcoholic liver disease include fatty liver, liver cirrhosis, and alcoholic hepatitis.
· Hepatitis - Characterized by inflammation of the liver and can be caused by viruses, alcohol and toxins. It can lead to jaundice and loss of appetite.
· Primary biliary cirrhosis - This is an autoimmune condition in which the bile ducts in the liver are progressively spifflicated. Symptoms include jaundice, ascites, fatigue, itchy skin, and fat deposits under the skin.
· Budd-Chiari syndrome - This is caused when there is a blockage in the hepatic veins. Thrombosis of the veins or a clot can cause blockage. Symptoms include pain in the abdomen and ascites. It is difficult to attribute a cause to this condition.
· Hereditary conditions - These include conditions such as hemochromatosis and Wilson's disease. The former leads to excess of iron in the body and the later causes an accumulation of copper.
Symptoms of liver disease include swelling in the ankles and feet because of lack of albumin. Pale stools, deep yellow colored urine, getting tired easily, nausea, appetite loss, weight loss, yellowing of skin due to jaundice, and easy bruising are some of the symptoms of liver disease

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