The liver: Multitasking to keep you healthy

Your liver is an organ that sits on the right side of your body, under your ribs. It’s an important organ, as it does a lot of jobs to keep your body healthy. The liver produces bile that helps you digest food. It also filters your blood and removes toxins.

If your liver isn’t working at 100 percent, it can affect your whole body

Liver disease includes illnesses and conditions that make it harder for your liver to function.

Common types of liver disease can include:

  • Hepatitis – A virus that attacks the liver and causes infection.
  • Cirrhosis – A build-up of scar tissue in the liver caused by drugs, alcohol or illnesses like hepatitis.
  • Hemochromatosis – A condition where the body stores too much iron, which can damage the liver.
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – A condition where the body stores extra fat in the liver, causing scarring and other problems.

While these different types of liver disease have different causes, they can share many of the same symptoms. Symptoms of liver disease can include:

  • Jaundice (the skin and the whites of the eyes look yellow)
  • Fluid or bloating in the abdomen
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness

Many other illnesses can cause the same symptoms. But if you have symptoms of liver disease, it’s important to talk to your doctor right away. If you have liver disease but don’t get treatment, it can lead to liver failure.

Diagnosing and treating liver disease

In order to figure out whether liver disease is causing your symptoms, your doctor may recommend:

  • Blood tests
  • Imaging tests, like a CT scan or an MRI
  • Biopsy, which is taking a small sample of cells and looking at them under a microscope
  • Endoscopy, which involves inserting a tiny tube with a camera into your throat to look through your digestive tract

These tests can help your doctor figure out if you have liver disease—and if so, what’s causing it. This will help determine the best treatment for you.

Treatment for liver disease may involve taking medicines, avoiding alcohol and/or eating a special diet. If you have severe liver disease or liver failure and other treatments don’t work, you may need a liver transplant. Talk to your doctor to find out what is causing your liver disease and which treatments are right for you.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.