LIVER, DISEASES OF.—The liver is a very much abused organ. In the minds of most people the liver is always at fault ; while. as a matter of [act, the liver is one of the most accommodating organs of the body. It is rarely sick, and usually made so only, by gross disregard of the ordinary rules of hygiene. The greater number of troubles ascribed to the liver are more often due to gastrointestinal disturbances, the excretory ducts of the liver, cause symptoms of disease in that organ. In many tropical countries, however, parasites often cause severe liver-diseases. Only the more common liver affections are discussed here.
Abscess of the Liver.—This affection occurs very rarely in temperate countries, being more frequently met with in the tropics, where it usually accompanies another disease. In exceptional cases an abscess of the liver may form as the direct result of an injury, such as a blow or a fall. The symptoms of liver abscess are very obscure, arid in many cases its presence may not become evident until it causes perforation of the skin or inflamma tion of adjacent organs in the chest or in the abdomen. Even the most experienced physician is at times unable to recognise the disease. Treatment consists in operation at the earliest possible moment.
Atrophy of the Liver. —The disease known as " acute yellow atrophy of the liver " is an affection which, by fatty degeneration, by disintegration, and by rapid atrophy of the liver-cells, quicklv leads to a diminution in the size of the organ. The malady, which is very rare, principally affects pregnant women. It begins with jaundice and with disturbances of the stomach and intestine. After a longer or shorter interval the brain and nervous system become involved, giving rise to severe symptoms of delirium, convulsions, and periods of coma, which almost invariably lead to a fatal termination. It is one of the most feared complications of pregnancy.
Acute yellow atrophy is a condition which results also from acute phosphorus poisoning and, to an analogous degree, from arsenic-poisoning.
Cancer of the Liver.—This affection occurs most frequently between the fortieth and sixtieth years of life. Heredity, climatic influences, injuries and gall-stones are thought. to be among the causative factors of this condition, but the true origin of cancer is not yet known. Cancer of the liver usually occurs as a secondary disease, following cancerous affections of other organs. It is often a very insidious disease, and may give rise to no symptoms until well advanced. There may be violent pains in the region of the liver, radiating into the small of the back or even into the arms, and jaundice usually develops. As a matter of fact, jaundice is one of the earliest symptoms, and a persistent attack of this affection should always he looked upon with suspicion, as being a possible indication of cancer of the liver.
Patients afflicted with cancer of the liver become emaciated, and their skin becomes dry and thin, and assumes a greyish or pale-yellow colour. Many patients complain of persistent sleeplessness, constant itching of the skin, loss of appetite, great thirst, difficulty in swallowing, etc. The disease is a very grave one, in which the physician is able only to alleviate the most annoying disturbances. Cancer of the liver is of very rare occurrence in tropical climates.
Cirrhosis of the Liver.—A chronic inflammatory disease characterised by morbid formation of connective tissue, with subsequent atrophy of the liver-cells. The most frequent, almost the only, cause of this affection is the excessive use of alcoholic drinks. The stronger the alcoholic drink imbibed, and the less solid food eaten with it, the more frequent is the occurrence of this condition, which is essentially a drunkards' disease. Since men are by far more often addicted to drink, the " alcoholic liver '' is found more frequently in them than in women. It occasionally occurs in children.