The liver is an organ in vertebrates, including humans. It plays a major role in metabolism and has a number of functions in the body including glycogen storage, plasma protein synthesis, and drug detoxification. It also produces bile, which is important in digestion. Medical terms related to the liver often start in hepato- or hepatic from the Greek word for liver, hepar.
Many diseases of the liver are accompanied by jaundice caused by increased levels of bilirubin in the system. The bilirubin results from the breakup of the hemoglobin of dead red blood cells; normally, the liver removes bilirubin from the blood and excretes it through bile.
- Hepatitis, inflammation of the liver, caused mainly by various viruses but also by some poisons, autoimmunity or hereditary conditions.
- Cirrhosis is the formation of fibrous tissue in the liver, replacing dead liver cells. The death of the liver cells can for example be caused by viral hepatitis, alcoholism or contact with other liver-toxic chemicals.
- Hemochromatosis, a hereditary disease causing the accumulation of iron in the body, eventually leading to liver damage.
- Cancer of the liver (primary hepatocellular carcinoma or cholangiocarcinoma and metastatic cancers, usually from other parts of the gastrointestinal tract).
- Wilson’s disease, a hereditary disease which causes the body to retain copper.
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis, an inflammatory disease of the bile duct, autoimmune in nature.
- Primary biliary cirrhosis, autoimmune disease of small bile ducts
- Budd-Chiari syndrome, obstruction of the hepatic vein.
- Gilbert’s syndrome, a genetic disorder of bilirubin metabolism, found in about 5% of the population.
There are also many pediatric liver disease, including biliary atresia, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, alagille syndrome, and progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis, to name but a few.
A number of liver function tests are available to test the proper function of the liver. These test for the presence of enzymes in blood that are normally most abundant in liver tissue, metabolites or products.