A liver disease must always be taken seriously. If it is not detected or is diagnosed late, the liver can sustain severe damage.
Hepatitis infections, toxins like alcohol and drugs, obesity, metabolic disorders and autoimmune diseases are some of the causes of liver diseases. The appropriate treatment is heavily dependent on the cause. Treatments are sometimes diametrically opposed – what might be the best treatment for one disease could have devastating effects on another. The treatment of hepatitis infections requires antiviral medications that inhibit the replication of hepatitis viruses or medicines that stimulate the immune system. In contrast, drug-based therapy for autoimmune diseases involves suppressing the individual's immune system.
The hereditary disease haemochromatosis damages the liver in a different way. This condition causes iron levels in the body to build up slowly over years and can be relieved by phlebotomy (removing some of the blood from the body).
If the liver has been severely damaged by toxins (e.g. alcohol, industrial chemicals, drugs), only abstaining from the substance in question can prevent further liver damage. Drugs that are taken to treat another illness (e.g. heart disease or high blood pressure) should not be discontinued under any circumstance without discussion with your doctor. Speak to your doctor about the possibilities for further action, such as liver-preserving medication.
In cases of fatty liver disease, which is linked to obesity, no medications can protect the liver from further damage (similar to the situation with toxins). An ongoing healthy diet helps to reduce one's weight and take the strain off the liver.
Symptoms of a liver disease are difficult to recognise until advanced. For that reason it is often difficult to diagnose the disease in the early stages. The symptoms can easily be mistaken for those of stress or burnout. For clarity, this list details the possible symptoms of a liver disease (or gallbladder disease):
- persistent fatigue and weakness
- yellow skin and whites of the eyes
- a feeling of pressure in the upper right abdomen
- difficulty concentrating
- clay-coloured stool and dark urine
- loss of appetite
- aversion to certain foods
- changes in weight
- nausea and vomiting
- nosebleeds and bruising
- constant muscle and joint pain
- decrease in body hair on the chest and abdomen in men
Should you be experiencing any of these symptoms, it is recommended that you have your liver values (GT, ALP, GOT/AST and GPT/LPT) checked by a doctor as a precautionary measure.