Liver Infections: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Liver infections are a very serious condition that should be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. The long-term damage that could result from an infection left untreated could be devastating; but educating yourself about it could help you recognize the signs early enough to prevent excessive damage. Read on to learn the typical symptoms that go hand-in-hand with liver infections as well as the common forms of diagnosis and treatment.
The liver has a huge responsibility. Think of it as the manufacturing, storage, and distribution center of the body’s proteins, sugars, fats, vitamins, and bile. It is the largest non-hollow organ in the body, but it also doubles as a gland because it produces bile. The liver is also a sort of filtration systems. That night you had a bit too much alcohol to drink? It was your liver working round the clock filtering the alcohol from your system. It also filters drugs and other toxins from your blood. Another important function of the liver is to collect the nutrients that the intestines have snatched from your food and metabolize them.
Now that you know the importance of the liver, let’s move on to symptoms that may crop up when your liver is in trouble. As with any illness, it is the symptoms that clue you in on the fact that something is wrong in your body, and the same is true for liver infections. Although some symptoms may be difficult to detect for a while, they will likely grow in severity until you do something about it. There are several different types of liver infection, however in this article we are going to discuss hepatitis, which is the most common cause behind liver infections.
Hepatitis, in Latin, actually translates into ‘liver inflammation’, and this is by no means a coincidence. Hepatitis can be caused by a viral infection, severe bacterial infection, as well as medicinal poisoning and toxins such as alcohol. There are two types of hepatitis: acute and chronic. While chronic hepatitis does not usually have many symptoms, there are a few that a patient might notice. Tiredness, pain or soreness below the rib cage, muscle and joint soreness, and jaundice can sometimes be noticed by the patient.
Acute hepatitis is usually accompanied by more pronounced symptoms. In the early stages of hepatitis one may notice an overall feeling of tiredness or run a low fever. They may feel nauseas and skip meals due to a large decrease in appetite. Headaches, rashes, and muscle pain are common, as is pain under the rib cage which represents a swollen liver. A little further into an acute hepatitis condition will reveal signs of jaundice. Jaundice causes the patient’s skin and whites of the eyes to turn a noticeable shade of yellow. The urine may be darker than normal due to the body’s struggling filtration system, and the patient’s bowel movements may produce lighter than normal feces. As the body tries to recover, the main symptoms may subside but the patient can be left feeling tired and lethargic for many weeks afterward.
To diagnose hepatitis, the doctor will usually draw blood and have it sent to the lab for testing. Your doctor may also wish to take a urine sample from you and possibly an ultrasound of the liver to detect abnormalities or enlargement. In severe cases, your doctor may suggest conducting a liver biopsy. A biopsy will yield a definite diagnosis as the doctor is able to see and touch the liver as well as obtain a tissue sample. Any tissues removed from the liver will be re-grown, therefore the patient needn’t worry about “loosing” any important tissues.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment available for acute viral hepatitis, however it can be prevented by getting hepatitis A and B vaccinations, as well as avoiding drinking too much alcohol and contact with others who have the hepatitis virus. As for bacterial infections and chronic hepatitis, treatment usually begins with identifying the toxin that is causing the liver so much distress and flushing it from the body. Antibiotics are sometimes given to the patient to help fight the infection. The doctor will likely recommend the patient switches to a nutritious diet full of vital proteins, vitamins, and minerals that will aid the body in recuperation and maintain better overall health. If water is being retained, the doctor may recommend diuretics—medication that causes the patient to urinate more frequently.
Anyone who suspects they may be nursing symptoms of a liver issue should speak to their doctor straight away. Liver issues that are left untreated may cause other serious conditions to develop throughout the body that may be a great deal more difficult to treat.