Liver (Anatomy and Function) (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)
Dr. Anand received MBBS degree from Medical College Amritsar, University of Punjab. He completed his Internal Medicine residency at the Postgraduate Institute of medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. He was trained in the field of Gastroenterology and obtained the DPhil degree. Dr. Anand is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.
In this Article
- What is the liver? Is it a gland or an organ?
- What is the functional purpose of the liver?
- What does the liver look like, and where is it located in the body?
- What diseases affect the liver?
- Fatty liver disease
- Genetic disorders
- Abnormalities of bile flow from the liver
- Decrease in blood flow draining from the liver
- What are symptoms of diseases of the liver?
- How is an examination of the liver performed?
- What is a liver biopsy?
- Can diseases of the liver be prevented?
- Find a local Doctor in your town
Abnormalities of bile flow from the liver
Abnormalities of bile flow from the liver may lead to liver inflammation, for example:
- Gallstones (the most common disease)
- Primary biliary cirrhosis
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis.
Decrease in blood flow draining from the liver
Decrease in blood flow draining out of the liver may cause the liver to become congested and inflamed, two examples include:
- Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition in which the heart is not strong enough to pump all of the blood it receives, and that blood can back up into the liver.
- Budd Chiari syndrome is a disease in which blood clots form in the hepatic veins, preventing blood from leaving the liver.
What are symptoms of diseases of the liver?
The liver is a large organ and a significant amount of liver tissue requires to be damaged before a person experiences symptoms of disease. Symptoms also may depend upon the type of liver disease.
- The inflammation of hepatitis may be associated with pain in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, nausea and vomiting. This may also be seen in people with gallstones.
- People who have jaundice (have a yellow-orange hue to their skin) because the liver cannot metabolize bilirubin (the normal breakdown product of old red blood cells).
- There may be a tendency to bleed excessively or bruise easily because the liver is unable to manufacture blood clotting factors in adequate amounts.
- Fatigue, weakness, weight loss, and shortness of breath because of muscle wasting; due to the inability of the liver to manufacture proteins.
- Because the liver is involved in the metabolism of sex hormones, gynecomastia (enlarged breast tissue in men) and impotence may occur.
- In end-stage liver disease, ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity), and leg swelling may occur because of inadequate production of albumin by the liver.
- There also may be difficulty in metabolizing ammonia causing its levels in the blood to rise, resulting in confusion due to encephalopathy (encephala=brain + pathy=dysfunction).
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