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Liver Disease

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Posted by on Wednesday, September 29, 2010, 2:45
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Liver Disease

Common Characteristics of Liver Disease

What are some common liver disease symptoms?

Liver Disease
Liver Disease

When diagnosing liver disease, the physician looks at the patient’s symptoms and conducts a physical examination. In addition, the physician may request a liver biopsy, liver function tests, an ultrasound, or a CT scan (computerized tomography scan).

Some common liver disease symptoms include the following, each of which are described briefly below:

* jaundice
* cholestasis
* liver enlargement
* portal hypertension
* ascites
* liver encephalopathy
* liver failure

What is jaundice?

Jaundice is a yellow discoloration of the skin and eye whites due to abnormally high levels of bilirubin (bile pigment) in the bloodstream. Urine is usually dark because of the bilirubin excreted through the kidneys. High levels of bilirubin may be attributed to inflammation or other abnormalities of the liver cells or blockage of the bile ducts. Sometimes jaundice is caused by the breakdown of a large number of red blood cells, which can occur in newborns. Jaundice is usually the first sign, and sometimes the only sign, of liver disease.

What is cholestasis?

Cholestasis is reduced or stopped bile flow. Bile flow may be blocked inside or outside the liver. Symptoms may include:

* jaundice
* dark urine
* pale stool
* bone loss
* easy bleeding
* itching
* small, spider-like blood vessels visible in the skin
* enlarged spleen
* fluid in the abdominal cavity
* chills
* pain from the biliary tract or pancrea
* enlarged gallbladder

Some causes of cholestasis include:

* hepatitis
* alcoholic liver disease
* primary biliary cirrhosis
* drug effects
* hormonal changes during pregnancy
* a stone in the bile duct
* bile duct narrowing
* bile duct cancer
* pancreatic cancer
* inflammation of the pancreas

What is liver enlargement?

Liver enlargement is usually an indicator of liver disease, although there are usually no symptoms associated with a slightly enlarged liver (hepatomegaly). Symptoms of a grossly enlarged liver include abdominal discomfort or “feeling full.”

What is portal hypertension?

Portal hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure in the portal vein, which supplies the liver with blood from the intestine. Portal hypertension may be due to increased blood pressure in the portal blood vessels or resistance to blood flow through the liver. Portal hypertension can lead to the growth of collateral vessels that connect to the general circulation, bypassing the liver. When this occurs, substances that are normally removed by the liver pass into the general circulation. Symptoms of portal hypertension may include:

* a distended abdominal cavity (ascites)
* bleeding of the varicose veins at the lower end of the esophagus and in the stomach lining

What is ascites?

Ascites is fluid build-up in the abdominal cavity, caused by fluid leaks from the surface of the liver and intestine. Ascites due to liver disease usually accompanies other liver disease characteristics such as portal hypertension. Symptoms of ascites may include a distended abdominal cavity, which causes discomfort and shortness of breath. Causes of ascites may include:

* liver cirrhosis (especially cirrhosis caused by alcoholism)
* alcoholic hepatitis
* chronic hepatitis
* obstruction of the hepatic vein

Ascites can also be caused by non-liver disorders.

What is liver encephalopathy?

Liver encephalopathy is the deterioration of brain function due to toxic substances building up in the blood, which are normally removed by the liver. Liver encephalopathy is also called portal-systemic encephalopathy, hepatic encephalopathy, or hepatic coma.

Symptoms may include:

* impaired consciousness
* changes in logical thinking, personality, and behavior
* mood changes
* impaired judgement
* drowsiness
* confusion
* sluggish speech and movement
* disorientation
* loss of consciousness
* coma

What is liver failure?

Liver failure is severe deterioration of liver function. Liver failure occurs when a large portion of the liver is damaged due to any type of liver disorder.

Symptoms may include:

* jaundice
* tendency to bruise or bleed easily
* ascites
* impaired brain function
* general failing health
* fatigue
* weakness
* nausea
* loss of appetite

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