Jaundice, or a yellow discoloration of the body, may occur when the outflow of bile is obstructed. It may also occur if too many red blood cells are being broken down, exceeding the liver’s capacity to deal with them.
Interference with the function of the liver cells may allow the bile to accumulate in the liver and spill over into the blood rather than passing freely down to the gallbladder and into the duct.
The liver makes the proteins in the blood and many of these are concerned with normal clotting mechanism so that impairment of liver function can lead to a bleeding disorder.
Glucose is stored in the liver ready to be released when the blood sugar levels drop. Vitamins Â12 and A are also stored in this organ, which is also the major site for the breakdown of most drugs.
The liver can suffer injury, infection or cancer. Primary cancer of the liver is rare but secondary spread of cancer from other organs is common.
Drugs, particularly alcohol, may damage the liver and, if the insult is severe and, in the case of alcohol, prolonged, the liver cells can be destroyed and replaced with scar tissue. This is cirrhosis.
This hard-working and fascinating organ is hardly thought of by most people until, for some reason, its function starts to fail.