While a healthy liver fights infections, cleans blood and stores energy for the body, sometimes it can come under attack from chemicals, viruses or even your immune system turning against it. Although a healthy liver can regenerate from damage, when it is prevented from doing so, or unable to do so, you need to spot the early signs and seek medical attention immediately.
Pay attention to the early warning signs. If you have a history of liver problems in your family, or are taking medication that can affect your liver (diabetic medication, heart medication) then you need to be especially cautious. The Mayo Clinic lists a few of the earliest signs as: discolored eyes or skin--particularly if they are a shade of yellow. Other warning signs include itchy sensitive skin that easily becomes inflamed and abdominal pain and swelling. If you experience any of these symptoms along with constantly dark colored urine, loss of appetite, nausea, chronic fatigue or stool that is pale, bloody or tar-colored And ig these symptoms persist, then you need to seek medical attention immediately.
Monitor your symptoms. If you have known liver damage or liver problems, you need to constantly monitor your symptoms to make sure you are not getting worse. For people with healthy livers taking medications that can harm the liver, it is important to pay attention to even the slightest changes in the body before any permanent damage occurs.
Get tested. The National Institute of Health recognizes three methods of testing the liver; blood tests, CT scans and liver tissue biopsies, and recommends yearly screenings as a bare minimum for people with known liver problems, diabetes, obesity or other conditions. Your doctor may recommend more screenings if you are at a higher risk for liver damage, but this is based on your individual needs.
Seek treatment options. If you have liver problems or are susceptible to liver problems it is important to understand what treatment options exist. The treatment is based on what sort of liver problems present themselves, so for a virus like hepatitis, the treatment would be an antiviral medication like alpha interferon. Other medications include ribavirin, lamivudine, steroids, and antibiotics, if necessary.
Other treatment options include hemochromatosis, which removes excess iron from the blood, or prescription of extra vitamin and mineral supplements to control the symptoms that come with liver problems.
If the liver continues to fail despite these measures, a liver transplant is the last resort.
Change your diet. The University of Illinois Medical Center has a few general dietary recommendations for people with liver problems. The first step is limited protein intake, because a damaged liver has trouble processing protein, then you should increase carbohydrates to help keep the body's energy supply up. The University of Illinois Medical Center also recommends a reduced or moderate amount of fat, fluids and sodium in the diet, because a damaged liver has problems processing and digesting these substances. Finally, if you have liver problems, you may need extra amounts of certain vitamins and minerals as recommended by your doctor. A damaged liver cannot properly store certain essential vitamins and minerals, so you may need to take extra amounts to help your body stay healthy.
Before taking overdoses of vitamins and supplements please consult your doctor to avoid irreparable organ damage.
Certain herbs like black cohosh and ma-huang are known to cause liver damage if taken in large quantities. Before taking any herbal supplements, consult a doctor, a nutritionist or a dietitian to make sure you are not unnecessarily overworking your liver.
The people most at risk for liver problems are those with a history of liver troubles in the family, diabetics, people who work around toxic chemicals, people who work in laboratories with blood, viruses, bacteria or other pathogens, people who work in a health care setting, people with obesity, tattoos (from unclean needles, especially), or those who have received transfusions before 1992. If you fall into these categories, then you need to get tested on a regular basis to ensure your liver health.