The liver is the largest organ of the body, weighing about 120gm and is situated on the right upper side of the abdomen. It is very important for the body as it has more than 500 functions.
Diseases afflicting liver can be acute or chronic. Acute liver problems usually present dramatically, but the majority of these recover completely. On the other hand, chronic liver illnesses are usually asymptomatic or have mild non-specific symptoms to start with. By the time significant symptoms appear the disease has already become far advanced and is often incurable. Infections due to hepatitis viruses (A, B, E), malaria, dengue, amoeba and adverse effects due to drugs are the commonest causes of acute liver illnesses. Commonest chronic liver diseases are alcohol-related, chronic hepatitis due to hepatitis virus B and C, NAFLD (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease). Most of the chronic liver diseases will ultimately develop into cirrhosis which predisposes to liver failure and liver cancer.
One of the common causes of liver disease is alcohol. The incidence of alcohol consumption has increased tremendously in our society. Apart from liver, alcohol predisposes to diseases and cancers in many other organs as well. Not everyone who takes alcohol will develop the disease, but who will develop the disease cannot be predicted. It is dependent on the amount and duration of alcohol intake, the gender of the individual, nutritional status, age, the weight of individual, genes and other co-morbid factors.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a disease seen in people who are obese or overweight, have diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and a sedentary lifestyle. This is first detected as fatty liver on ultrasound or by raised liver enzymes on routine liver blood tests. 20% of patients with fatty liver will develop a condition called NASH, 30% of these will ultimately develop cirrhosis. As for now, there is no proven therapy for fatty liver or NASH. Best way to prevent it is to have a healthy and active lifestyle. Reduce weight, exercise, reduce fat and sugar intake in your diet and treat associated diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, if you have these.
Finally, common diseases of the liver are caused by alcohol, virus infections and obesity. It is very difficult to diagnose liver diseases in early stages. By the time these are diagnosed they become incurable. So it is very important to take appropriate precautions to prevent the development of liver diseases.