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Understanding the Liver

About Liver Health

Liver Anatomy

The liver is critical to a person's well-being. It is designed to:

  • Process all food and (most) drugs we eat
  • Store iron reserves, as well as vitamins and minerals
  • Make bile to help digest food
  • Detoxify poisonous chemicals, including alcohol and drugs
  • Store energy by stockpiling sugar until needed
  • Manufacture new proteins
  • Make clotting factors to help blood clot
  • Remove poisons from the air, exhaust, smoke, and chemicals we breathe
  • Avoid taking unnecessary medications (Too many chemicals can harm your liver.)
  • Don't mix medicines without the advice of a doctor. (You could create something poisonous that could damage your liver.)
  • Don't drown your liver in beer, liquor or wine. (If you drink alcohol, have two or fewer drinks per day.)
  • Never mix alcohol with other drugs & medications.
  • Use caution and common sense regarding intimate contact (Hepatitis viruses live in body fluids, including blood and seminal fluid.)
  • Hepatitis C, spread primarily through direct blood contact, can be transmitted through contaminated needles used in drug injection.
  • Untreated, chronic hepatitis B and C can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer and are the most frequent reason for liver transplants.
  • Many infected people do not have symptoms until liver damage occurs, sometimes many years after being infected.
  • Never, ever, touch a discarded syringe or needle.
  • One in 10 Americans is afflicted with liver-related disease each year.
  • More than 27,000 Americans die each year from chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis.
  • There are approximately 4 million people infected with hepatitis C in the United States.
  • The mixing of alcohol and acetaminophen has potentially lethal toxic effects on the liver.
  • Liver transplantation, once impossible, is now highly feasible. In addition, there have been dramatic gains in survival rates of recipients. In 2004, 6,168 liver transplants (including 323 living donor) were performed in the United States. One-year survival rate is 88 percent. As of October 18, 2005, there were 17,450 people waiting for a liver transplant.