Human Liver Anatomy, What is A Liver?
Although skin is considered to be the largest organ, liver is known to be the largest internal organ and the largest gland in the human body. One may wonder about "What is a liver?" and what a purpose it serves. Learn it now – it’s one of the most fantastic organs of your body. Being a glandular structure, it is an organized group of cells or tissues specialized to secrete or excrete certain substances to be used elsewhere in the body. The largest gland, liver also enjoys the distinction of being the hottest organ in your body. Glands are broadly classified into two major groups i.e. endocrine and exocrine glands. A normal liver weighs about 1.2 to 1.5 kg and performs both endocrine and exocrine functions. Keep on reading this article to get useful and interesting information about the location, function, diseases and risk factors for liver disease.
Location of Liver
The largest internal organ, liver is located in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, just beneath the right side of the diaphragm and under the right lower rib cage. Concerning human liver anatomy, it has two major lobes, a larger right one and a smaller left one that are further subdivided into eight functional segments.
Within a minute, approximately 1500ml of blood flows through the liver to ensure its efficient working. In part due to its ample blood supply, liver is considered a prime site for metastatic spread of cancer.
Function of Liver
This glandular structure, placed in the abdomen, has potential to perform a number of critical functions. One of its primary jobs is to purify the body from different harmful substances, like toxins. As a gland, on the other hand, it secretes chemicals in the form of bile. Bile contains salts that neutralize the acidic food coming from stomach and help in the digestion of fats. In the presence of bile salts, the fatty substances are broken down into smaller, simpler pieces that are then taken into the blood across the wall of small intestine. Some other important liver functions are listed below:
- It converts a more harmful substance ammonia to less harmful compound urea.
- The old red blood cells that are of no use to the body should be destroyed and removed out of the body. Liver performs the job of destroying the old RBCs.
- Another important function of this organ is to store sugar in its non-functional form.
- As there is a decline in the blood glucose level, the stored sugar is converted into functional sugar.
- It also acts as a storehouse for some vitamins and iron.
Regenerative Capacity of Liver
The majority of cells in the liver are hepatocytes, the remaining cell types are Kupffer cells, stellate cells, endothelial cells and bile ductular cells. This vital organ is helpful to almost every other organ in the body in one of the other way. When functional cells (hepatocytes) of liver are lost, the incompletely understood mechanisms (such as, growth factors, cytokines etc.) induce proliferation of the remaining liver cells. This is the very reason that when some part of the liver is removed surgically or damaged due to any other injury, the remaining hepatocytes can undergo regeneration and thus the complete recovery from the injury can be expected.
Signs of Liver Disease
Jaundice is the hallmark sign of liver disease and may be the most reliable marker of the severity of the disease. Typical symptoms of liver disease include:
- Icterus (jaundice)
- Poor appetite
- Discomfort or pain in the right upper abdomen
- Intestinal bleeding
- Abdominal distention
Many patients may not have the aforementioned symptoms but the biochemical liver tests will help to confirm the disease.
Risk Factors for Liver Disease
After having come to know about the variety of great jobs that liver performs, you must have realized how important it is to keep this organ hale and hearty. If anything happens to it, a number of vital functions would get badly disturbed. So, it would be wise to take special care of liver while it is in normal working condition. This can be done by eliminating the risk factors for liver disease. Some of the common risk factors are being described below.
- Alcohol consumption: Alcohol is the leading cause of liver disease in many parts of the world followed by hepatitis C and B virus infection. More than two drinks per day in women and more than three drinks per day in men are thought to be associated with increased rate of alcoholic liver disease.
- Recreational Drug Use: Everything that the nature has created has some benefits, but its unwanted and excessive use can prove to be problematic. Smoking, recreational use of marijuana and snorting cocaine are potential risk factors for liver disease.
- Hyperlipidemia: When the levels of lipids and lipoproteins in the blood get abnormally elevated, the condition is known as hyperlipidemia. Such a condition increases the possibility for liver to suffer from a disease.
- Genetically Transferred Diseases: Family history of cirrhosis, Wilson's disease, hemochromatosis, diabetes or endocrine failure also serve as risk factors for the liver disease.
- Viral Hepatitis: Intimate or occupational contact with individuals with viral hepatitis can be the cause of hepatic disorders.
- Exposure to Affected Blood: Accidental exposure to blood of an affected person will make you susceptible to the same condition.
- Recent Surgery: Sometimes, after surgical operations, the process of healing may go bad. This, in turn, will affect the functioning of liver. So, after recent surgery, you should take special care of this organ.
- Transfusion with Blood: Blood transfusion is the process of putting new blood into the body of an individual whose body is unable to synthesize the required quality or quantity of the blood. Such an act is likely to increase the risk of liver disease.
- Sexual Contact: If a healthy person makes sexual contact with patients suffering from viral hepatitis, he/she is very likely to get affected by the same abnormality.
Summing up, if you want to enjoy the perfect health, take special care of the liver. It has a lot of jobs to perform in your body. Any liver disease would render it unable to accomplish the assigned tasks, and many of your body’s mechanisms would get disturbed. If the above mentioned risk factors are controlled, the chances of liver disease will be eliminated.