What Is the Function of Liver in Human Body?
- The liver is an essential organ that has many functions in the body, including making proteins and blood clotting factors, manufacturing triglycerides and cholesterol, glycogen synthesis, and bile production.
- The liver is a large organ that sits on the right hand side of the belly.
- The liver is the body’s largest internal organ.
- Many different disease processes can occur in the liver, including infections such as hepatitis, cirrhosis (scarring), cancers, and damage by medications or toxins.
- Symptoms of liver disease can include
- Alcohol can be toxic to the liver (hepatotoxic), especially in high doses, and long-term alcohol abuse is a common cause of liver disease.
- The liver is involved in metabolizing many toxins, including drugs and medications, chemicals, and natural substances.
What is the liver? Is it a gland or an organ?
The liver is one of the vital organs of the body, responsible for hundreds of chemical actions that the body needs to survive. It is also a gland because it secretes chemicals that are used by other parts of the body. For these reasons the liver is both an organ and a gland; in fact, it is the largest internal organ in the body.
What Is the Function of the Liver?
The liver has multiple functions. It makes many of the chemicals required by the body to function normally, it breaks down and detoxifies substances in the body, and it also acts as a storage unit.
Hepatocytes (hepar=liver + cyte=cell) are responsible for making many of the proteins (protein synthesis) in the body that are required for many functions, including blood clotting factors, and albumin, required to maintain fluid within the circulation system. The liver is also responsible for manufacturing cholesterol and triglycerides. Carbohydrates are also produced in the liver and the organ is responsible for turning glucose into glycogen that can be stored both in the liver and in the muscle cells. The liver also makes bile that helps with food digestion.
The liver plays an important role in detoxifying the body by converting ammonia, a byproduct of metabolism in the body, into urea that is excreted in the urine by the kidneys. The liver also breaks down medications and drugs, including alcohol, and is responsible for breaking down insulin and other hormones in the body.
The liver is also stores vitamins and chemicals that the body requires as building blocks. These includes:
Fatty Liver, High Cholesterol, and Statins
Digestion Q&A by Dr. Lee
Viewer question: My doctor told me that I have fatty liver and high cholesterol. He also said that my liver is slightly inflamed because my liver tests are mildly abnormal. He wants me to lose weight, exercise and take Lipitor to lower my cholesterol. I also read that Lipitor can have liver side effects. Is it safe to take Lipitor in somebody like me?
Doctor’s response: Low dose statins like atorvastatin (Lipitor) are safe in patients with mild liver disease (for example, patients with fatty liver and mildly abnormal liver tests in the blood such as ALT and AST).
What Are Symptoms of Liver Diseases?
The liver is a large organ and a significant amount of liver tissue needs to be damaged before a person experiences symptoms of disease. Symptoms also may depend upon the type of liver disease.
- The inflammation of hepatitis may be associated with pain in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, nausea and vomiting. This may also be seen in people with gallstones.
- People may have jaundice (have a yellow-orange hue to their skin) because the liver cannot metabolize bilirubin (the normal breakdown product of old red blood cells).
- There may be a tendency to bleed excessively or bruise easily because the liver is unable to manufacture blood clotting factors in adequate amounts.
- Fatigue, weakness, weight loss, and shortness of breath because of muscle wasting; due to the inability of the liver to manufacture proteins.
- Because the liver is involved in the metabolism of sex hormones, gynecomastia (enlarged breast tissue in men) and impotence may occur.
- In end-stage liver disease, ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity), and leg swelling may occur because of inadequate production of albumin by the liver.
- There also may be difficulty in metabolizing ammonia causing its levels in the blood to rise, resulting in confusion due to encephalopathy (encephala=brain + pathy=dysfunction).
What Does the Liver Look Like, and Where Is It Located in the Body?
The liver is the largest internal organ of the body and is located in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, beneath the diaphragm and is protected by the lower right ribs. It also extends across the midline toward the left upper quadrant of the abdomen. Should it become enlarged, the liver will grow further across the upper abdomen and down towards the navel (umbilicus).
The liver is divided into two lobes and has a rich blood supply obtained from two sources; 1) the portal vein delivers blood from the gastrointestinal tract (stomach, intestine, colon) and spleen, and 2) the hepatic artery supplies blood from the heart.
The biliary tree describes a system of tubes that collect bile, used to help digest food, and drains it into the gallbladder or the intestine. Intrahepatic ducts are located inside the liver (intra=inside + hepar=liver) while extrahepatic ducts are located outside the liver.
Picture of the liver and where it is located in the abdomen