The liver is a large organ in the abdomen that performs many important bodily functions, including blood filtering. It is also considered a gland because it makes chemicals the body needs. Certain diseases and lifestyles can damage the liver, but there are many ways to protect this vital organ.
The human liver is an organ and gland in the human body. It’s spongy, wedge-shaped, reddish-brown in color and about the size of a football. The size varies based on how tall you are and how much you weigh.
The liver is an essential organ, performing hundreds of functions necessary to sustain life. It's also a gland because it makes proteins and hormones that other parts of the body need.
Weighing, on average, about three pounds in an adult, the liver is the largest internal organ. Under normal conditions, the liver is located on the right side of the body, under the ribs. In a condition called situs inversus, the liver is located on the left side.
Issues related to the liver are called hepatic conditions. A medical professional who specializes in the liver is a hepatologist.
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The liver has hundreds of jobs. Some of the most vital are:
The liver has two main parts: the larger right lobe and the smaller left lobe.
The lobes contain many blood vessels. Blood travels through the liver. The liver filters (cleans) the blood, removing toxins and waste that eventually leave the body through urine and feces.
The lobes also contain thousands of lobules (small lobes). These lobules connect with many bile ducts, tubes that transport bile from the liver to the small intestine.
Many conditions can affect the liver. Among the most common are:
Many of these conditions can lead to cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver.
Sometimes, damaged liver tissue can regenerate, or grow back. Other times, liver disease can cause serious symptoms and even be life-threatening.
When a person has a liver problem, one of the most common symptoms is jaundice.
With jaundice, the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow because of too much bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellow waste product the liver gets rid of when it breaks down red blood cells. Higher levels of bilirubin indicate a possible problem in the liver.
Other symptoms of liver problems may include:
To keep your liver healthy and functioning well, try to follow these tips:
If you have any symptoms of liver problems, especially jaundice or belly pain, talk to a healthcare provider. Anytime you have severe pain in your abdomen, get immediate medical care.
You may be at risk for liver problems if you:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
The liver is both an organ and a gland that performs hundreds of functions vital to human life. Many common conditions and diseases can damage the liver, but you can take steps to protect it. Talk to a healthcare professional if you have any symptoms, especially jaundice or pain in your belly.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/22/2021.
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