What does your liver do?

The liver is one of the largest organs in the body. It weighs just over 1 kg. It sits under your ribs on the right side of your body. The liver is a complex organ that works 24 hours a day. Here are some of the many things your liver does:

Cleanses your blood
The liver breaks down alcohol and other drugs and chemicals. It gets rid of poisons from your body. It removes bilirubin, a colouring made from breaking down a chemical (haemoglobin) in red blood cells.

Controls your supply of body fuel
The liver makes, stores and supplies quick energy (glucose). It makes, stores and exports fat.

Produces many essential body proteins
These proteins are necessary to carry substances in the blood, clot the blood, and fight off infections.

Controls the balance of hormones
These include the sex hormones, thyroid hormones, cortisone and other hormones that drive the metabolism.

Controls your body’s cholesterol
The liver makes cholesterol, passes it out and converts it to other essential substances.

Stores essential vitamins and minerals
These include iron, copper and some vitamins like A, D K and B12.

Produces bile
Bile is a yellow-green liquid that is put out from the liver, stored in the gallbladder and passes into the small intestine to help digest food by breaking down fat.

What does hepatitis do
to your liver?

Hepatitis can last a few months, or the rest of your life.

Acute hepatitis
When you only have hepatitis for a short time, we call it “acute”. The virus might make you sick for a few months but then you will likely get better. Some people may feel unwell. But most people do not get seriously ill if they have acute hepatitis.

Chronic hepatitis
It’s possible to have hepatitis for more than 6 months. If you have hepatitis B or C, it can become “chronic”, meaning the virus stays in your body for a long time. You may not feel sick, but over time the virus can harm your liver and stop it working properly.

Over a long time, this damage can lead to scarring. We call this “fibrosis”. If the liver is severely scarred, this is called “cirrhosis“, and it affects the blood supply to the liver.  If you have a lot of scarring, the liver stops working. This is liver failure. If you have cirrhosis, you are more likely to get liver cancer. It can also lead to problems in the rest of your body.