October is Liver Awareness Month and has been set aside to recognize the importance of liver health and the growing top causes of liver disease. In honor of the occasion, let’s learn more about the liver’s vital functions and how you can keep it healthy.
Primary Liver Functions
The liver is the second largest organ in the body. Without it, you cannot live. It performs over 500 functions. The primary ones include:
- Bile production and excretion for digestion
- Detoxifies the blood
- Stores vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, D, K and B12
- Converts, stores, and releases glucose as needed for energy
- Regulates blood clotting
The Cause of Liver Disease
Any number of conditions can damage the liver. In fact, there are over 100 different kinds of liver disease. Despite the number, most progress and cause damage the same way. Some of the more common liver diseases are caused by:
- Infections (hepatitis a, b, or c)
- Alcohol abuse (alcohol-related fatty liver disease, or AFLD)
- Sedentary lifestyle and Poor diet (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD)
- Autoimmune disorders (autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cholangitis)
Liver disease is called a silent killer because it doesn’t always have noticeable signs and symptoms. If they do occur, they often appear in the later stages of the disease. Signs include:
- Yellowish appearance to skin and eyes
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Swelling in the legs and ankles
- Itchy skin
- Persistent fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Tendency to bruise easily
Celebrate Liver Awareness Month with STRI
By tapping into the heightened awareness during Liver Awareness Month, we can draw attention to the alarming increase in the prevalence of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is a condition that affects up to 25 percent of people in the United States. Fatty liver disease can lead to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is when chronic inflammation begins to damage and scar the liver.
NASH can progress to a point where permanent scarring of the liver replaces healthy tissue. Eventually, individuals can develop cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. The good news is that healthier lifestyle changes have a positive impact at any stage of liver disease. If caught and treated early enough, it’s possible to stop, reverse, or prevent disease progression.
South Texas Research Institute offers FREE fibroscans to adults at risk of liver disease. Fibroscans are a fast, painless way to determine liver health. Based on results, research studies looking into new alternatives for liver disease may be an option. Call us at (956) 284-6353 to schedule or request an appointment online today!