Monday, October 25, 2010

The Scary Truth About Liver Disease

The Scary Truth About Liver Disease

Considering how integral the liver is to nearly every biochemical process required to run the body, the effects of liver disease can be detrimental to your health and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

There are many types of liver disease and often the symptoms can be difficult to recognize until the disease has progressed. In fact, up to 50 percent of individuals with underlying liver disease may not display any symptoms—and many symptoms that may be displayed can be very non-specific.  However, there are more prominent signs that your liver may not be functioning properly: Yellow or jaundiced skin, ascites (excessive fluid accumulated in the abdominal), dark colored urine, pale stool, and yellow discoloration of the eyes are all potential red flags for liver disease and need to be treated accordingly.

Liver Disease at a Glance—Why It Should be Taken Seriously1
  • Over 42,000 people in the United States die each year from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.
  • Liver disease is the ninth leading disease-related cause of death in the United States.
  • There are more than 100 types of liver disease, but hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common.
  • Approximately four million Americans are infected with hepatitis C, and more than one million Americans are infected with hepatitis B.
  • Hepatitis C kills 8,000–10,000 people in the U.S. annually.
  • Hepatitis B is responsible for 5,000 deaths annually.
As unsettling as these statistics may seem, the good news is that your liver won’t give up very easily, and many types of liver disease can be prevented. Your liver is a powerful organ, constantly working and always fighting to protect your body. Its powers of regeneration are unmatched and no matter how severe the injury, your liver strives to bounce back.

But that doesn’t mean your liver should fight this daily battle alone. A healthy lifestyle is a great way to assist your liver, and it’s your best bet when it comes to the prevention of liver disease. A low-fat nutritious diet, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding risky behaviors such as drug abuse or chronic alcohol abuse may help decrease your chances of liver disease in incredible ways.

As Liver Awareness Month comes to a close, remind yourself of everything your liver does for you on a daily basis, and keep fighting the good fight against liver disease. 

1 “Facts at a Glance; Liver and Liver Disease.” American Liver Foundation. January 4, 2008.

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