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What is the liver?

The liver is a very important organ. It is located on the right side of your abdomen and consists of the right and the left liver lobe. One of the most crucial roles of the liver is to break down food and convert it to energy. The liver also helps your body get rid of waste products of metabolism, fights infections, and produces some very important factors needed for blood coagulation.

Drinking too much alcohol can damage your liver.

Problems with alcohol vary from mild to even life-threatening. Drinking alcohol can cause alcohol abuse and even dependence. This means you are not able to stop drinking even though you are know what it does to you, or even though you already have liver disease.

Alcoholism is a disease.

There are two ways in which your liver can be damaged. There might be an acute problem, in which your liver gets damaged over the course of a few months. Chronic liver disease occurs when these problems develop over a number of years.

Alcohol causes your liver cells to become inflamed and eventually they will stop working and die. The more alcohol you drink, the more liver cells are going to be damaged. The liver tries to repair this damage, but instead of normal liver tissue, scar tissue will form. This process will continue until a great part of your liver is damaged and you will start having symptoms.

The more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk of developing liver disease.

Cirrhosis is a chronic liver disease in which healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue, and eventually this will lead to liver failure.

Cirrhosis has also serious complications like:

  • Portal hypertension
  • Edemas
  • Splenomegaly
  • Bleeding

Once cirrhosis develops, your prognosis partly depends on whether or not you continue drinking.

There are also a lot of other conditions that can cause liver disease. They include hepatitis, some inherited conditions, and fatty liver associated with diabetes and obesity.

Symptoms of liver disease

For some people it might take years or even decades to feel any symptoms. This is because the liver has a lot of reserves and even though it might be damaged it can continue to work.

Early symptoms of liver disease are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea

At a later stage you might have:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itching
  • Jaundice
  • Easy bruising
  • Edema of the legs, ankles and abdomen
  • Blood in the stool
  • Light colored stool
  • Vomiting blood
  • Confusion, disorientation, personality changes
  • Liver cancer
It is never too late to stop drinking - even in the stage of cirrhosis.

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