The liver is a large, meaty organ weighing about three pounds. The liver has two large sections, called the right and the left lobes. The gallbladder sits under the liver, along with parts of the pancreas and intestines. These organs work together to digest, absorb, and process food.
The liver’s primary job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract before passing it to the rest of the body. The organ is used to detoxify chemicals and metabolizes drugs in the body. It also produces proteins important for blood clotting and secretes bile. The liver is the chief organ responsible for metabolizing alcohol.
The liver is the only internal human organ capable of natural regeneration of lost tissue; as little as 25 percent of a liver can regenerate into a whole liver. This is not a true regeneration but rather compensatory growth. The lobes that are removed do not regrow and the growth of the liver is a restoration of function, not original form.
Liver disease, also referred to as hepatic disease, describes any disturbance to the organ that causes illness or loss of designated function. Long-term damage to the liver from any cause can lead to permanent scarring, called cirrhosis. Cirrhosis can bring about liver failure, which is a life-threatening condition that demands urgent medical care. Liver failure may result from infection, disease, diet, and excessive alcohol consumption.
According to The Telegraph, deaths from liver disease have increased by a fifth between 2000 and 2009 in the UK. Liver disease and cirrhosis now kill 16 people in every 100,000.
The increase in liver disease in the United Kingdom is due to excessive alcohol consumption, fatty diets, obesity, and sedentary lifestyles. One key problem is that regardless of alcohol intake, a lack of exercise and a fatty diet can also cause cirrhosis and liver cancer. These two factors cause fat to build up in the liver. It is a misconception to assume alcohol alone causes cirrhosis.
The Daily News reports that The British Liver Trust charity found that 28 percent of people tested were showing the early signs of liver disease last year. With no early warning signs and tolerance levels varying, liver testing is critical to identify early signs of damage so people can make lifestyle changes to save their lives. The charity is calling on the government to make early liver screening available to everyone at risk. Pre-screening may save lives.