Some people turn yellow when their liver becomes infected. This is called jaundice, and it means that the liver cells have become infected and inflamed. A pigmented product called bilirubin that is produced in the liver and normally passed into the bowel for elimination is blocked as the inflamed cells and canals jam up.
More and more is channeled into the bloodstream, giving the skin and normally white parts of the body (such as the whites of the eyes) a yellowish tinge.
Liver Disease Causes
The most common type of liver disease is infectious hepatitis, or hepatitis A. It’s caused by a virus believed to be transmitted from infected fecal matter to food that subsequently finds its way into the system. Infectious particles of the hepatitis A virus are seen with the aid of an electron microscope. Symptoms can occur anywhere from 30 to 40 days after infection.
This is a similar kind, but it seems to act much more slowly, taking anywhere from 40 to 110 days (average 65 days) to produce symptoms. It is probably transmitted in a different way, and once it was believed to occur if infected needles or blood were used. Now researchers have found that the virus may be transmitted from person to person in a multitude of ways.
A product in the blood that pinpointed accurate diagnosis was first discovered in an Australian aboriginal, and for many years it was called Australian antigen. But now it is known as the hepatitis B (surface) antigen. When trying to confirm the diagnosis, doctors seek this particular element in the blood of the patient.
Liver Disease Symptoms
Often symptoms start abruptly, with fevers, headaches, aches and pains all over, loss of appetite and vomiting. After two to five days, a yellowing of the skin or eyes may occur, and this gives the signal that hepatitis may be present. However, this is not always so, and many cases occur in which there are only a few symptoms. Often the upper part of the abdomen is painful. This indicates the liver or spleen, two large organs tucked up under the ribs, are affected and swollen.
With symptoms of this kind, a wise parent will call the doctor. Diagnosis is often difficult, although if there is a local epidemic, it is much easier to predict. The doctor will most probably order special tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Liver Disease Treatment
There is no specific drug in use, but the doctor will give advice on the best routine to follow. Also, the doctor’s supervision is advisable, for serious complications may take place in which hospital care may become necessary. Fortunately the majority of cases does well with simple measures, and get well before long.
Reducing physical activity with a few days in bed gives the body’s recuperative powers the best chance to work at maximum capacity. Plenty of fluids, especially fruit juices with added powdered glucose D provide food in an easy digestible form and help allay nausea. Fluids help rid toxins and dead germs from the system. They also help reduce fevers. There are no strict food restrictions, but high-fat-content meals are usually unpalatable.
Most cases do well, especially those in whom the infection has been mild – this is so in most instances. However, hospital care is sometimes necessary, especially if symptoms are severe, and the youthful patient is not able to take normal food by mouth.
Hepatitis B is a far more severe and dangerous disorder, and the outlook is often much poorer.
A vaccine offering protection against hepatitis B is now available, and is given to persons at risk. The main risk is in mothers infecting their babies during pregnancy.
There is no vaccine for hepatitis A, but those coming into contact with the disease may gain protection by an injection of special serum containing the protective elements called gamma globulin. The doctor arranges this for you.