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Liver & Its Various Functions

  • May 08
  • Liver Care & Transplant

Liver & Its Various Functions 

The liver is located in the right upper abdomen underneath the right ribcage – below the diaphragm. Weighing in about 1.5 kilograms, the liver has a distinct reddish-brown colour and usually measures about 14 centimetres across. That being said, its' also known to grow larger especially in case of certain diseases such as hepatomegaly – also referred to as the large liver. In other cases, such as cirrhosis, the liver is known to shrink.

The liver can be divided into two prominent parts – the left and the right lobe. The left lobe is comparatively smaller than the right lobe. The liver is also the second largest organ present in the human body while also being considered as the largest internal organ of the human body. In addition, it’s described as the most complex of all metabolic organs. As a matter of fact, besides humans, any other vertebrate – a living being with a spinal column or a backbone – also has a liver.

The importance of the liver can’t be overstated as its effectively responsible for carrying out over 500 different crucial functions of the body.

What are the various functions of a liver?

The liver is responsible for performing a plethora of vital functions throughout the body. Some of the functions that are performed by the liver include:

  • The liver is a blood filter and doubles up as the body’s ‘detoxifier’. In that regard, it performs a function similar to what the kidneys do – breaking down the various toxins and harmful chemicals that are ingested – either deliberately or unintentionally – through various foods or drinks. Further, the liver helps in protecting the body from certain toxins that are spontaneously present within the body owing to day to day activities.

  • The liver is responsible for producing certain kind of enzymes and chemicals while also breaking down old blood cells. This helps produce proteins which help the blood to clot in case of bleeding.

  • The liver is also in charge of producing cholesterol. While high levels of LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is bad for the body as it can lead to a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries, the body needs cholesterol for the purpose of building cells as well as hormones.

  • Most of the medications consumed are processed and broken down by the liver in a form that the body can make use of – something the body is incapable of doing so otherwise.

  • The liver usually contains 10 per cent of the total blood in the body at any given point. In addition, it is responsible for filtering around 1.4 litres of blood every minute.

  • The liver is responsible for the production of bile which is required in the digestion of foods and breaking down fatty foods to allow the pancreatic lipase to digest fat better. Bile is important as without it, the body would be unable to flush out the toxins from the body.

  • The liver also stores sugar as glycogen and helps in restoring it back to the proper amount of glucose in the blood which is required for producing energy.

  • The liver contains extra vitamins and minerals vitamins that allow an individual to perform throughout the day.

Effects of a non-functioning Liver

When parts of the liver become damaged beyond repair affecting the liver ability to function optimally, liver failure is said to happen. Liver failure has several dire consequences. In the case of liver failure, some of the following symptoms may be observed initially:

  • Fatigue

  • Loss of appetite

  • Muscle Cramps

  • Nausea

  • Tummy upset resulting in Diarrhea

If the liver failure is left untreated and allowed to progress further, it results in bile build up which can result in the following:

  • Skin and eyes turning yellow – a condition called jaundice

  • Reduced brain function

  • Itchiness felt across the skin

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Increased risk of bleeding

  • Bloated abdomen

  • A constant feeling of drowsiness accompanied by mental disorientation

Conditions/Diseases that can cause liver failure

There are a bunch of liver diseases which might entail the need for a liver transplant. In adults, ESLD or cirrhosis is the primary reason for which a liver transplant is required. Liver disease covers an array of diseases that can vary in severity. From mild injuries to severe liver cirrhosis, there are several conditions which need immediate medical attention. As a matter of fact, untreated liver injuries prove to be a gateway towards cirrhosis or liver scarring – also termed as end-stage liver disease. Here are some causes of liver cirrhosis

  • Hepatitis  (A, B, C, and others) which may affect the functioning of liver cells.

  • Wilson’s disease – also termed as a disorder of copper metabolism.

  • A genetic defect with a missing enzyme that may result in liver disease – often referred to as Alpha-one anti-trypsin deficiency

  • An inherited metabolic disorder is known as Glycogen storage disease (type I, III, IV)

  • A disorder of tyrosine metabolism referred to as Tyrosinemia

  • Alcoholic liver disease along with Drug-induced liver disease which is caused due to excessive consumption of alcohol/drugs causing irrevocable damage to the liver.

  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease resulting in extra fat in the liver owing to obesity, high levels of cholesterol or triglycerides accumulating in the liver.

  • Primary biliary atresia, also known as extrahepatic ductopenia –  a congenital condition where the bile ducts stop forming properly resulting in narrow, blocked, or absent ducts.

  • Autoimmune liver diseases – where the immune system stages an attack against the liver

  • A condition known as Hemochromatosis which is characterized by excessive iron deposits in the liver


Fortis Centre for Liver Care & Transplant (CLCT)

At Fortis Centre for Hepatobiliary Sciences and Liver Transplant, the experienced team of liver specialists ensures the best treatment for your liver and the associated organs such as the pancreas, biliary tree and gall bladder. When these organs are afflicted with common diseases including Hepatitis A and B, fatty liver, cirrhosis and even cancer, the hepatologists rise to the occasion to diagnose and treat the diseases in the best possible methods.

The Liver Transplant team comprises highly qualified and skilled hepatologists who are equipped with the agility and precision to conduct liver transplants when this incredibly hardworking organ gives up functioning to its maximum capacity.


 

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