This site is intended for residents of Singapore only.

Getting to know liver

How well your liver functions depends largely on the health of the liver cells. Liver function is impaired when liver cells are damaged and the health of the liver declines.

The most common diseases are:

Fatty liver

Fatty liver is the abnormal accumulation of fats inside the liver cells and usually occurs in people who are obese (overweight), diabetic (high blood sugar) or have elevated cholesterol or triglyceride (high levels of fats in the blood) in their blood. It can also occur with excessive or prolonged alcohol consumption.

Fatty liver often does not cause symptoms but sometimes a person with fatty liver may feel tired or have vague abdominal discomfort. If the cause of fatty liver is not resolved, the liver may become inflamed (hepatitis) and cause a more serious problem.

Alcoholic Liver Disease

Alcoholic Liver Disease is caused by prolonged or excessive alcohol consumption. The problem in the liver may range from just fat accumulation in the liver cells to inflammation or the more serious hardening of the liver (cirrhosis, where liver cells and tissue are replaced by scar tissue) which ends in liver failure. Many people with alcoholic liver disease have no symptoms in the early stage. However, if the drinking continues, the disease can advance and damage the liver tissue resulting in symptoms that include yellowish discolouration of the skin and eyes (jaundice), poor appetite, fatigue, weight loss, weakness, pain in the right upper area of the abdomen and in severe cases swelling of the legs and abdomen and bleeding.

Drug-induced Liver Injury

Your liver processes most of the medicines you take, converting them into chemicals your body can use or eliminate. In the process, especially in cases of drug abuse and addiction, these chemicals can attack and injure the liver. The symptoms of drug-induced liver injury can resemble those of any liver disease such as severe fatigue, abdominal pain and swelling, yellowish discolouration of the skin and eyes, fever, nausea and vomiting.

Viral Hepatitis

Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by any of the 5 types of viruses, hepatitis A, B, C, D, E. Inflammation usually produces swelling and sometimes permanent liver damage. Symptoms common to most forms of viral hepatitis include fever, headache, nausea, muscle aches and yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.

These liver diseases must be managed by a medical professionals. Should you have any concerns about your liver health, please talk to your doctor.

Reference: Hepatology Textbook and Atlas, 3rd edition by Erwin Kuntz and Hans-Dieter Kuntz