Liver and Pancreatic Diseases
While you may not think much about the liver and pancreas, these two organs play important roles within the digestive system. The liver is responsible for more than 500 crucial functions, from breaking down fat to detoxifying the body. The pancreas produces vital hormones such as insulin and also helps the intestines absorb nutrients from the foods you eat. Of course, when your liver and pancreas aren’t working properly you may not know it right away.
What are some conditions that affect the liver?
Even though the liver is regenerative and incredibly resilient there are still diseases and infections that can affect the health and function of the liver. Some of these conditions include,
- Hepatitis (both acute and chronic forms)
- Fatty liver disease (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic forms)
- Liver failure
- Genetic conditions (e.g. Wilson’s disease; hemochromatosis)
- Liver cancer
What are some common conditions that affect the pancreas?
Some of the disorders and diseases that affect the liver and pancreas include,
- Pancreatitis (acute, chronic and hereditary)
- Pancreatic cyst
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
- Pancreatic cancer
What are the symptoms of liver problems?
The symptoms will vary based on the underlying problem and the severity of the problem. While it’s possible to have liver problems and not know it, common symptoms of liver disease or infection include,
- Black or pale-colored stool
- Dark-colored urine
- Jaundice (yellowing the eyes and skin)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Persistent fatigue
- Swollen abdomen
- Swelling in the feet and legs
What are the symptoms of a pancreas problem?
Just like with any systemic disease or infection, the symptoms you experience will depend on the root cause. Be on the lookout for these warning signs of a pancreas disorder or disease,
- Upper abdominal pain
- Abdominal pain that radiates to the back
- Pain that is worse after eating, especially fatty meals
- Abdominal tenderness and/or swelling
- Rapid heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
Who is at risk for liver and pancreas problems?
There are certain health and lifestyle factors that could increase your chances for developing a liver or pancreas disorder. These risk factors include,
- Long-term or heavy alcohol use
- Poor diet that is high in cholesterol and unhealthy fats
- Autoimmune disorders
- Metabolic disorders (e.g. diabetes; cystic fibrosis)
- Family history of pancreas or liver conditions
- Certain medications (talk to your gastroenterologist about the medications you are currently taking)