Did you know there are more than 100 different types of liver disease? Also, that the liver is the second largest organ in the body? Both are true. Most people are familiar with one type of liver disease—cirrhosis, which is predominantly caused by alcoholism and/or hepatitis C.
So that leaves 99 others…
Pare that down to 98 different liver diseases because we’re about to talk about the kind of fatty liver that isn’t caused by drinking alcohol, or contracting hep C. We’re talking about non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, also called NASH, and it’s on board to become the most common cause of liver transplants by the year 2020.
The liver plays a vital role in keeping us alive. It’s like the gatekeeper in that nothing, and I do mean NOTHING gets past it.
The liver processes foods and liquids and turns them into nutrients the body can use. It also removes toxic substances from the body. When scarring occurs, the liver begins to malfunction.
Some people develop NASH because of high cholesterol, while diabetes and obesity are also thought to play a role. For others, there is no known cause. And like hepatitis C, there are no real symptoms until the damage is done.
Fortunately, a simple blood test is being developed that will detect NASH in its early stages, when medical intervention is most likely going to help.
Great inroads have been made regarding the treatment of hep C, and the US Veterans Administration has been actively reaching out to Vietnam vets, many of whom were infected during their service years. And now scientists are tackling NASH.
That would only leave 98 liver diseases to go as far as finding cures. I’m hopeful that the next 10 years will show progress in detecting and treating liver diseases.