Acute. A short illness.
Acute illness comes on suddenly and can be severe. Most people will get better quickly with no lasting problems.
Albumin. One of the main proteins in your blood.
Albumin is made by your liver, then gets added to your blood. If your liver is damaged there may be less albumin in your blood.
ALT (Alanine aminotransferase). A liver enzyme.
If your liver cells become damaged or die, ALT can leak out of your liver and into your blood. The amount of ALT in your blood is one of the things measured when you have a liver blood test.
ALP (Alkaline phosphatase). An enzyme in your blood.
ALP is one of the things measured when you have a liver blood test. Too much ALP in your blood can be a sign of liver disease, especially diseases related to your bile ducts.
Antibody. A protein produced by your immune system to defend against a specific disease.
Antigen. Anything that causes your immune system to make antibodies.
For example, some antigens are small structures on the outside of a virus. Your immune system can make antibodies that will stick to these antigens and help to kill the virus.
Ascites. A build-up of fluid in your tummy.
Ascites causes your tummy to become swollen and can be painful.
AST (Aspartate aminotransferase). A liver enzyme.
If your liver cells become damaged or die, AST can leak out of your liver and into your blood. The amount of AST in your blood is one of the things measured when you have a liver blood test.
Asymptomatic. When you have an illness or condition but you do not have any signs or symptoms of having it.
Bile. A liquid that helps you digest fat.
Your liver makes bile and stores it in your gallbladder. Bile helps you to digest fats and to take in some vitamins.
Biliary. Anything to do with bile or bile ducts.
Bilirubin. A yellow substance that can cause jaundice.
Bilirubin is natural waste product. Your liver helps to get rid of bilirubin. If your liver isn’t working properly, bilirubin can build up and cause jaundice.
Biopsy. A type of medical procedure.
If you have a biopsy, a small sample will be taken from part of your body, such as your liver. The sample is then looked at under a microscope to help diagnose or keep track of an illness.
Cancer. A condition where specific cells in your body grow and reproduce in an uncontrolled way.
Cancer cells can harm nearby healthy cells and can spread to other parts of the body. More information about liver cancers.
Cholangiocarcinoma. Cancer of the bile ducts. More information about bile duct cancer.
Cholangitis. Inflammation of the bile ducts.
Cholestasis. A condition where the flow of bile is reduced.
This may be because your liver is making less bile. Or because there is a blockage in your bile duct that is stopping the bile getting out.
Cirrhosis. A stage of liver disease.
Cirrhosis happens when your liver has been damaged over a long period of time and becomes scarred or stiffened. A liver with cirrhosis might not be able to work properly. Cirrhosis can be caused by many different types of liver disease even if there have been no symptoms. More information about cirrhosis.
Chronic. A long illness.
Chronic illness lasts at least six months and might go on for the rest of your life.
Co-infection. Having more than one infection at the same time.
Some people will have two or more different infections at the same time. These can be viruses, bacteria, parasites or a mixture of any of these. For example, people with hepatitis B may also have a hepatitis D infection.
Compensated cirrhosis. A stage of liver disease where your liver is damaged, but able to carry on working.
Endoscopy. A test used to look inside your body.
During an endoscopy a thin flexible tube with a camera inside it is put into your body through your mouth or another natural opening.
End stage liver disease. Another name for decompensated cirrhosis.
Decompensated cirrhosis is sometimes called end stage liver disease because it happens after the other stages of the disease.
Enzyme. A substance made by the body to help it with different tasks.
Some enzymes help to digest food or to speed up chemical reactions.
ERCP (Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography). A type of endoscopy.
ERCP is used to look at the pancreatic and bile ducts. It can also be used to remove gallstones that have got stuck in the bile duct.
Fatigue. Extreme tiredness.
Fibrosis. Build up of scar tissue .
Your liver can repair itself from harm, but if there is a lot of damage this repair process leaves behind scars. Liver fibrosis happens when these scars build up in your liver. A liver with fibrosis can carry on working well and can heal itself if there is no more damage. But if damage continues then fibrosis can lead to cirrhosis.
FibroScan. A brand name for a scanning device used in transient elastography.
Fulminant. A sudden and very severe illness.
Gastroenterologist. A doctor who works with people who have digestive diseases.
These include conditions of the stomach, gut, liver and pancreas.
Glycogen. A form of sugar stored in your liver and muscles.
Your body can turn carbohydrates from food into glycogen, and store the glycogen in your liver for when you need extra energy.
GGT (Gamma-glutamyltransferase) An enzyme in your blood.
GGT is one of the things measured when you have a liver blood test. Too much GGT in your blood can be a sign of liver disease, especially related to your bile ducts. You may see this written with the Greek letter Y like this Y-glutamyltransferase.
HAV (Hepatitis A virus). More information about hepatitis A .
HBV (Hepatitis B virus). More information about hepatitis B.
Hepatic. Anything to do with your liver.
HE (Hepatic encephalopathy). Changes in your brain caused by liver disease.
Hepatic encephalopathy happens when your liver can not get rid of toxins properly and they enter your brain. There are a lot of different symptoms of HE and they can come and go. HE can become serious if not treated. More information on HE.
Hepatic artery. The artery that takes blood to your liver.
The hepatic artery is a tube that takes blood and oxygen from your heart to your liver, pancreas, gallbladder, stomach, and part of your intestine.
Hepatitis. Inflammation of your liver.
The word hepatitis is used to describe inflammation of your liver. Hepatitis is often associated with liver disease caused by viruses. But many types of liver disease can cause hepatitis.
Hepatomegaly. An enlarged and painful liver.
HEV. (Hepatitis E virus). More information about hepatitis E
Inflammation. Your body’s first response to something that could harm it.
Inflammation happens when your immune system starts to respond to an infection or injury. Inflammation often causes heat, swelling and pain. Some medical conditions can cause long term inflammation.
Immune system. Your body’s defences against illness and infection.
Jaundice. A condition where your skin or eyes turn yellow.
Your liver helps to get rid of a yellow substance called bilirubin. If your liver is damaged, or your bile ducts are blocked, bilirubin can build up and cause jaundice. The yellow colouring of jaundice can be harder to see if you have black or brown skin. Other symptoms include itching and having pale, putty coloured poo.
Liver blood tests. A group of blood tests that check for signs of damage to your liver.
This will be one of the first tests you have if doctors think you might have a liver problem. Liver blood tests are also used to keep track of how your liver is doing over time. More information on liver blood tests.
Multidisciplinary team (MDT). A team of healthcare professionals.
Multidisciplinary teams bring together the different kinds of healthcare professionals who are involved in your care. As well as different types of nurse and doctor, the team might include a dietician, social worker, psychiatrist, and other healthcare professionals.
NAFLD (Non-alcohol related fatty liver disease). A type of liver disease
NAFLD is a long-lasting liver disease caused by having too much fat in your liver. More information about NAFLD
NASH (Non-alcohol related steatohepatitis). A serious stage of fatty liver disease
NASH is a stage of NAFLD (non-alcohol related fatty liver disease). NASH happens when the amount of fat in your liver causes damage and inflammation. More information about NASH
Oedema. Swelling caused by a build-up of fluid
Oedema causes swelling in your legs, ankles and feet.
Oesophagus. The tube that takes food and drink from your mouth to your stomach.
Oncologist. A doctor who works with people who have cancer.
PCR test (Polymerase chain reaction) A test to check if a particular virus is in your body.
A PCR test can find out if you have a hepatitis C virus infection at the time you have the test.
Portal vein. A tube that carries blood from your stomach to your liver.
The portal vein takes blood containing nutrients and toxins from food into your liver.
Resection. A type of surgery.
A resection removes part of an organ, such as your liver, if it is damaged.
Seroconversion. The development of antibodies after an infection or vaccination.
When your immune system spots a new infection or vaccination, it will begin to make antibodies. This is called seroconversion. After seroconversion, a blood test will be able to find the antibodies in your blood.
Stent. A small tube used in surgery.
A stent is a thin wire-mesh or plastic tube. It can be used if your bile duct is blocked, for example by gallstones. A surgeon will put the stent in your bile duct to hold the duct open so that other stones do not get stuck.
Transient elastography. A type of scan.
Transient elastography tests how stiff your liver is. This is a sign of how much damage and scarring there is. Transient elastography is sometimes called a FibroScan.
Tumour markers. Substances found in your blood, which might indicate a tumour (cancer).
Varices. Enlarged or swollen veins.
Variceal bleeding. When enlarged or swollen veins, known as varices, burst and bleed.
Viral load. The amount of a virus in your blood.
Virus. A bug that can only reproduce by infecting living cells.