Useful words glossary
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.
AFP (Alpha-fetoprotein). A tumour marker.
Adults don’t usually have much AFP in their blood. High levels of AFP may be a warning sign for liver cancer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Decompensated cirrhosis. A stage of liver disease where your liver can not work properly.
People with decompensated liver disease are often very unwell with serious symptoms and complications.
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.
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.
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.
HCC (Hepatocellular carcinoma). One of the main types of liver cancer.
Sometimes called hepatoma.
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.
Hepatocyte. A liver cell.
Hepatologist. A doctor who works with people who have liver disease.
Hepatomegaly. An enlarged and painful liver.
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.
LFT (Liver function test). An old name for liver blood tests.
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.
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.
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.