The liver is one of the most important organs in your body, it’s also the largest. It sits under your rib cage, in the upper right-hand corner of your stomach. You can’t live without it.
Why? Your liver is so important because it does many jobs. It supports your stomach, your heart and your blood. On this page you can find out all you need to know about your liver, your liver health and how hep B and hep C affects your liver.
The Role of Your Liver in the Body
The liver keeps your body alive. It does lots of different jobs for your body, things that no other organ can do.
Some of the important things your liver does are:
- Clean your blood
- Break down the food you eat
- Store energy and vitamins
- Send energy and vitamins to the parts of your body where they are needed
- Clot your blood whenever you cut yourself and bleed
- Stop infections
How Hep B and C Affect Your Liver Health
Hep B or C, if left untreated, can quietly damage your liver. When hep B or C enters your body, it targets your liver cells. The hep B and hep C viruses replicate themselves in the liver, which harms the liver cells. After many years the damage can turn into scars. These scars can build up and become cirrhosis.
Symptoms of Liver Disease and Damage
Liver cirrhosis happens over time. It begins when healthy liver cells are damaged and become inflamed (swollen). Cells that are very inflamed die and are replaced by scar tissue (also called fibrosis). When scar tissue builds up too much it is called cirrhosis.
There are two stages of liver cirrhosis: compensated and decompensated.
Compensated cirrhosis is the early stage of liver cirrhosis. It has only mild or no symptoms. At this point some of your liver still works well enough to compensate (make up) for the parts of the liver that have scarring. If liver damage gets worse, you will get the next stage of liver damage, called decompensated cirrhosis.
It is important to understand the four symptoms of decompensated cirrhosis. The four most common symptoms of liver cirrhosis are:
- Bleeding varices
If you notice you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should seek medical assistance immediately.
Can Liver Fibrosis and Cirrhosis be Reversed?
If you have liver fibrosis or cirrhosis, you will need to see a liver specialist or liver clinic for treatment and monitoring.
They might prescribe you medicine and suggest lifestyle changes to help correct or slow any liver damage that has been done. Curing or treating your cirrhosis or fibrosis will lower your symptoms and help you feel better. The good news is that for many people with liver damage, fibrosis and cirrhosis can be reversed.
If you are cured of hep C but already had cirrhosis you will still need to see a liver clinic or specialist for ongoing care. Your doctor will refer you to a specialist or liver clinic – if you you need help finding a hep friendly doctor near you, search our Directory or call the Hepatitis Infoline.
Living a Healthy Lifestyle to Promote Liver Health
Having a healthy lifestyle and diet is very important for people with liver cirrhosis. If your liver isn’t working properly, it may not be able to get the energy you need from food. Your fat and muscle stores will be used up instead. You may have unhealthy weight loss, muscle loss and malnutrition. Changes to your diet can really help your nutrition and energy levels, and lessen liver cirrhosis symptoms.
Should I see a specialist liver dietitian?
You may be referred to a specialist liver dietitian. The dietitian will look at your diet and work with you to design your liver-friendly diet plan. They will answer any questions you might have about the food and drink that is appropriate for your condition. Your diet might need to be adjusted along the way if your symptoms change, but the dietitian will be there to help you.
The parts of your diet they usually work on are:
- Salt intake (how much salt there is in your diet)
- Protein intake (e.g. meat, fish, dairy, legumes)
- Alcohol consumption (how much alcohol you drink)
Together with your dietitian you’ll work out which food groups are best for your liver , and which ones to avoid.
Learn More About Hepatitis B, C and Your Liver
Have questions about how hepatitis B and C affect your liver? Don’t wait to learn more. We have many free and helpful resources available to answer your questions.
You can also use our NSW services directory to find a liver specialist near you.