Chronic liver disease is a liver disease of slow process that persists over a long period of time, resulting in progressive destruction of the liver. This can include a number of illnesses, such as alcoholic liver disease, liver fibrosis, hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, primary sclerosing cholangitis and sarcoidosis. A liver injury or illness of any type can be very serious. In this article, we’ll examine the symptoms of these diseases and how they’re treated.
Hepatitis is common chronic liver disease. It is the inflammation of the liver, resulting in liver cell damage and destruction, and can be categorized in two groups; acute hepatitis and chronic hepatitis. Some people do not recover fully from acute hepatitis and develop chronic hepatitis, as the liver continues to sustain more damage and inflammation. Hepatitis is considered chronic if symptoms persist longer than six months. Symptoms for chronic hepatitis are usually mild. Although the liver damage continues, its progression is usually slow. Some individuals may experience no symptoms, while others may experience poor appetite, fatigue, low fever, upper abdominal pain and jaundice.
Many people associate alcohol abuse with liver disease, since the liver processes alcohol so it can be eliminated from your body. If you consume more alcohol than the liver can process, then the resulting imbalance can injure the liver by interfering with its normal breakdown of protein, fats and carbohydrates. There are three kinds of liver diseases related to alcohol consumption: fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis, which is the most serious type of alcohol-induced liver disease. Cirrhosis refers to the replacement of normal liver tissue with scar tissue. Between 10 and 20 percent of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis, usually after 10 or more years of drinking.
The symptoms of alcohol related liver disease are serious and include fluid in the abdomen, bleeding from veins in the esophagus, an enlarged spleen, high blood pressure in the liver, changes in mental function, coma, kidney failure and liver cancer. The first step in treatment is to stop drinking. A doctor may suggest changes in diet and certain vitamin supplements to help the liver recover from the alcohol-related damage. Medications may be needed to manage the complications caused by the liver damage. In advanced cases of cirrhosis, the only treatment option may be a liver transplant. However, active alcoholics usually do not qualify as organ recipients.
The treatment that you’ll need for chronic liver disease will depend on your specific symptoms. Treatments usually include bed rest, drinking extra fluids to prevent dehydration, avoiding unnecessary medications so that the liver has fewer chemicals to process, avoiding alcohol and eating a well balanced diet. Further treatment will depend on the type and the extent of disease. This could include medications like ribavirin, lamivudine, steroids and antibiotics. The most important element of treatment will be the patient’s attitude and active participation. It is possible to lead a full and active life with this chronic disease if the patient is willing to take special care of this vital organ.