Hepatitis and Your Liver
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On the right side of your abdomen, just below the ribcage, is one of the hardest working organs in your body, the liver. This remarkable organ performs over 500 functions to help clean and defend your body. It filters nearly a liter of blood every minute and performs vital functions like manufacturing bile and producing proteins.
One essential job of your liver is to act as a filter and break down anything your body takes in such as street drugs, caffeine, or alcohol. Your liver also works like a factory, transforming sugars and proteins into what you body needs. Your liver stores vitamins, hormones, and cholesterol and releases these chemicals and nutrients into your bloodstream when your body needs them.
If you have hepatitis, your liver may not be working as well as it should. Some people with hepatitis may have a swollen liver, while others may have severe scarring or shrinking of their liver. When your provider sees you in clinic, he or she will examine your liver to see if it shrunken, hard, or swollen.
The word hepatitis means inflammation or irritation of the liver. This irritation can be caused by any of the hepatitis viruses, or anything else that harms your liver. For example, alcohol is irritating to your liver, and can cause serious damage if you drink a lot or if you have hepatitis C. And since your liver is a non-complaining organ, you will not feel the signs of too much alcohol consumption until the damage is already done. Keeping your liver healthy and strong depends on lowering the toxins that you bring into your body. Eliminating alcohol from your routine is a good start.
Other things that can cause irritation or inflammation of your liver include over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs and street drugs. You should also be careful when using vitamins and herbs because these too, can cause complications if used incorrectly.
To help find out if your liver is damaged, your provider can order a few simple blood tests. These tests look for an increased amount of chemicals called enzymes in your blood. Under normal conditions, these enzymes are released in small amounts. But when the liver is damaged, the number of enzymes leaving the liver increases. This raises the total enzyme levels in your blood and signals to your provider that something may be wrong with your liver.
Your liver will continue to work hard even if you have liver damage, so it's important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This may take a few adjustments in your daily routine, but taking these steps will help insure that your liver can do its job effectively. And working with a good medical team will help you monitor your progress and obtain the right tools necessary to keep your liver healthy and strong.