Learning how to cure liver disease / hepatitis is very important, but we have to know what liver disease is first. There are two types of liver inflammation: the acute and the chronic. Of a chronic hepatitis, man speaks when the inflammation lasts for more than six months. The most common causes of liver inflammation are viruses, especially the hepatitis A, B and C. However, liver fatting, often in combination with a metabolic disease such as diabetes mellitus, is also the trigger of the disease. In addition, toxins such as alcohol and medicines and – in rare cases – autoimmune diseases can contaminate the liver in such a way as to ignite.
More than one million people in Germany have a chronically inflamed liver. But only the fewest suspects of their illness. For the trickery of all inflammations of the liver is that the diseased organ still suffers. An inflamed liver does not hurt, and for a long time only produces unspecific symptoms such as fatigue, itching or a feeling of pressure in the upper abdomen. Symptoms such as yellowing of the skin and eyes (icterus), severe pain in the upper abdomen, vomiting and great fatigue. Only a fraction of the persons concerned therefore seek a doctor. “This is fatal because the consequences of undetected liver infections can be dramatic,” says Prof. Dr. Michael P. Manns, Chairman of the Board of the German Liver Foundation.
Thus the acute hepatic inflammation can heal without a trace, but also lead to an acute liver failure or a chronic course. In this case, the risk of further severe sequelae such as liver cirrhosis or liver cancer also increases. However, many liver infections can be treated well if they are detected at an early stage. Especially important is an early diagnosis.
Liver cirrhosis (shrinkage)
In cirrhosis of the liver, the elastic liver tissue hardens more and more. Healthy liver cells die and are replaced by scarred, hard connective tissue. The liver shrinks, hence the name “shrink”. At the same time, they can no longer perform their metabolic and detoxification functions properly. The process can not be reversed, it can only be stopped. An untreated liver cirrhosis leads to liver failure.
Common complications of liver cirrhosis are internal bleeding from varicose veins (esophageal varices), water accumulation in the tissue, mostly in the abdomen (ascites) and impairment of the brain functions (hepatic encephalopathy).
In more than half of all cases, an excessive consumption of alcohol is the cause of liver cirrhosis, just under a third of the diseases are due to an infection with hepatitis viruses.
It is the task of a healthy liver to remove harmful substances such as medicines or to store fats and, if necessary, to provide them again for the body. But when the liver is used to process more toxins or absorb more fats than it can break down or store, additional fat deposits in the tissue. A fatty liver is produced. Too much alcohol also leaves its traces: the liver also converts it to fat.
Excessive alcohol consumption, overweight, metabolic disorders such as diabetes mellitus and the taking of medications are also the most common causes of a fatty liver. It is a mass phenomenon in Germany. More than a third of adults over 40 hat a differently pronounced fatty liver. A health risk that is strongly underestimated. For the fatty liver can ignite – and thus also the danger of secondary diseases like liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
But where it does not have to come. A fatty liver, also a fatty liver inflammation, can re-form. The prerequisite is that those affected change their way of life – and this depends on the cause of the fatty liver – a cautious! – weight reduction, a diet change, more exercise and a renouncement of alcohol. Drastic starvation is not recommended: you can still have the inflammation and the great danger of an acute liver failure. Effective drugs against the development of a fatty liver and against a fatty liver inflammation are not yet available.
Primary liver cancer is distinguished from malignant tumors in the liver itself (hepatocellular carcinoma, HCC) and malignant cancers in the bile ducts (cholangio-cellular carcinoma, CCC). Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) occurs more frequently and is therefore often used as a synonym for liver cancer. In addition there are secondary liver cancer diseases: This is referred to as when metastases of tumors occur in the liver, the heart of which is found in other body organs.
The rate of liver cancer disease is increasing worldwide. In Germany, deaths from liver cancer have more than doubled since the 1970s. The tumor is particularly tricky because it is often diagnosed too late. Usually only at the advanced stage causes liver cancer complaints such as gelbeucht, nausea, weight loss and pain in the Oberbauch. Early detection is therefore particularly important. The faster the tumor is discovered, the better the healing chances.
The data from almost 400 patients who were treated at the Hannover Medical School between 1998 and 2003 reveal the causes of the development of liver cancer. In more than half of the cases, the tumor developed as a result of an infection with the hepatitis B virus or C. In about 40 percent of the cases, alcohol or overweight were the cause of liver cancer. In less than ten percent of the cases, there were other causes.
Autoimmune liver disease
Autoimmune liver diseases are caused by a faulty control of the immune system: the own body attacks cells of liver or bile ducts. This group of rare liver diseases include autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) and primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). The causes of autoimmune liver diseases are still largely unexplained.
Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) is a chronic inflammation of the liver cells that can occur at any age. Women are much more affected than men. AIH, like the other liver infections, usually causes no or unspecific symptoms such as fatigue, nonspecific abdominal pain or itching. Frequently, only in routine examinations do elevated liver values occur which give rise to further examinations.
The primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is a chronic inflammation of the small bile ducts in the liver, which in the advanced stage can overlap the entire liver. Although the name suggests, all patients do not necessarily develop cirrhosis because the PBC can be diagnosed and treated in the early stages. The PBC affects 90% women.
Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is also a chronic inflammation of the bile ducts. In this disease the bile-ducts are gradually constricted by connective tissue growing around them. The majority of men are affected by PSC. Often, the disordered disease is associated with a chronic inflammatory disease. Untreated, the PSC can pass into liver cirrhosis. The risk of developing bile duct carcinoma is also increased in patients with PSC.
Iron storage (hemochromatosis)
Iron storage is one of the most common hereditary diseases. The body extracts from the food more iron than it can and stores the iron mainly in the liver, in the pancreas and in the heart. Untreated causes the disease in the liver only a connective tissue multiplication (fibrosis) and later a liver cirrhosis, often also a liver carcinoma.
There is a very simple therapy: blood vessels bring the iron values back into the normal range; however, it is indispensable that this therapy be performed at an early stage before the development of these clinical complications.