Did you know our liver is a warehouse and hive of activity? It carries out more than 460 complex tasks including breaking down food, fighting infections and filtering bad stuff from our blood.
It is a reddish-brown, wedge-shaped organ and sits above the gall bladder, stomach and spleen. A healthy liver – which is the largest organ in the body – normally weighs about 1.5kg and has a width of about 15cm.
However, lots of things can cause liver damage and it tends to get worse over time. Some are related to diseases and other health conditions. Others have to do with people’s lifestyles – like how much they drink and how much (or little) they exercise.
A ‘wish’ to Scunthorpe hospital’s charity, The Health Tree Foundation, has seen £1,000 handed over to hepatitis C specialist nurse Clare Robinson to help educate staff and patients all about liver disease.
Clare is all too aware of the damage caused to the liver as she works with people who have been diagnosed with the hepatitis C virus.
She said: “The thing with the liver is it is very resilient and can function even when it becomes damaged. It’s only when people start to feel unwell and have symptoms that further investigations reveal liver damage.
“In hepatitis C patients this can be 20 to 30 years down the road; as people often don’t know they are living with the virus until the liver is significantly damaged. “
Symptoms can include, mood swings, aching joints, pain over the liver area, itchy skin which bruises easily, eyes and skin may look yellowish (jaundice), stomach ache, and loss of appetite and swelling of the legs, ankles and stomach.
Clare said: “The liver should be soft and smooth but if it is damaged it could lead to fibrosis – small scars forming which eventually leads to cirrhosis where the liver becomes hardened and unable to function properly.”
The money from the charity is being used to buy three life-sized livers – a healthy one, a fatty one and one with cirrhosis.
Clare will use them to educate patients with various liver diseases to clearly show the damage being done. She said: “They will provide a brilliant visual education tool I can use when speaking to patients, as well as with staff, about liver disease and the organs ability to regenerate.
“There are also a number of visual cards which shows the liver at each stage of disease, and how, with lifestyle changes the damage can sometimes be reversed.”
Clare added: “I would like to thank The Health Tree Foundation for their support in buying these fabulous teaching materials. I am hoping by having a liver which people can look at, and feel, it will help educate people on how to look after it.”