Home Health Liver Diseases: What You Should Know

Liver Diseases: What You Should Know

Liver Diseases: What You Should Know – Practically, your liver performs a lot of functions that keep you healthy. It turns nutrients into chemicals your body needs. It filters out poisons. It helps turn food into energy. When your liver doesn’t work well fails to perform these functions, it can affect your whole body.
Different things can cause serious liver conditions. You’ll want to know about the top causes.
Liver Diseases: What You Should Know

What causes different types of liver disease?

1. Infections

Sometimes, the problem might be you having an infection that inflames your liver. Viral hepatitis is the most common cause, including:

  • Hepatitis A. Most people get it by eating or drinking something that’s tainted by fecal matter. You might not have any symptoms. It usually goes away by itself within 6 months without any long-term harm.
  • Hepatitis B. You get it from somebody else, such as through unprotected sex or taking drugs with shared needles. If it lasts longer than 6 months, it makes you more likely to get liver cancer or other diseases.
  • Hepatitis C comes from infected blood that gets into your blood. You might get it if you take drugs with shared needles or in connection with HIV. If you’re a health-care worker, you might get it from an infected needle that accidentally sticks you. Symptoms may not show up for many years. For reasons that aren’t quite clear, baby boomers are at risk for hepatitis C and should be tested for it.

2. Immune System Problems

Your immune system fights off invaders including bacteria and viruses. But it might go wrong and attack one or more parts of your body, such as your liver.

  • Autoimmune hepatitis inflames your liver. It can lead to other disorders and even liver failure. It strikes girls and women more often than boys or men.
  • Primary biliary cholangitis attacks tiny tubes in your liver called bile ducts. They carry bile, a chemical that helps you digest food. When the ducts are injured, the bile backs up inside your liver and scars it. Women come down with this more often than men.
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis scars your bile ducts, and it can eventually block them. The bile builds up inside your liver, and that makes it harder for your liver to work. It may lead to liver cancer, and you might someday need a liver transplant. Men are more likely than women to get it.

3, Cancer and Tumors

If cancer shows up in your liver, that’s most likely because it has spread from another part of your body, like your lungs, colon, or breasts. But a few cancers can start in the liver.

  • Liver cancer affects women more often than men, and African-Americans more often than whites. Your doctor might call it hepatocellular carcinoma. It’s more likely if you have hepatitis or drink too much.
  • Bile duct cancer strikes the tubes that run from your liver to your small intestine to carry bile, a fluid that helps you digest food. This kind of cancer mainly affects people over age 50, but it’s uncommon.
  • Liver cell adenoma is a tumor that doesn’t have cancer. It’s uncommon, but women who take birth control pills for a long time are more prone than other people to develop it. There’s a small chance the tumor could eventually turn into cancer.

Other Causes of Liver Disease

  • Alcohol abuse can lead to cirrhosis. So can nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and long-term cases of hepatitis B and C.
  • Drug overdoses. Taking too much acetaminophen or other medications can harm your liver. Make sure you follow the dosing instructions on the label, and be aware that acetaminophen might be in more than one medicine you take.
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is when too much fat has built up inside your liver. The extra fat can inflame your liver. One type of NAFLD is nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). It means you have inflammation and cell damage in your liver, as well as fat. It can scar your liver and lead to other disorders, like cirrhosis.

Dire complications of liver disease include:

  • Acute liver failureThis happens when you don’t have a long-term liver disease but your liver quits working within a very short time — days or weeks. That may happen because of an overdose of acetaminophen, infections, or because of prescription drugs.
  • Cirrhosis is a buildup of scars in your liver. The more scars replace the healthy parts of your liver, the harder it is for your liver to do its job. Over time, it may not work like it should.

What are the symptoms of liver disease?

Some types of liver disease (including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease) rarely cause symptoms. For other conditions, the most common symptom is jaundice — a yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes. Jaundice develops when your liver can’t clear a substance called bilirubin.

Other signs of liver disease may include:

  • Abdominal (belly) pain (especially on the right side).
  • Bruising easily.
  • Changes in the color of your urine or stool.
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Swelling in your arms or legs (edema).

How is liver disease managed or treated?

Treatment for liver disease depends on the type of liver disease you have and how far it has progressed. Possible treatments include:

  • Medications: Healthcare providers treat some types of liver disease with medication. You may take medicine for viral infections like hepatitis or inherited conditions like Wilson disease.
  • Lifestyle changes: You can use your diet to help manage certain types of liver disease. If you have fatty liver disease, avoiding alcohol, limiting fat and calories and increasing fiber intake can help. Alcohol-related liver disease can improve with abstinence from alcohol.
  • Liver transplant: When liver disease progresses to liver failure, a liver transplant may be the best treatment option. A transplant replaces your liver with a healthy liver.

Can liver disease be prevented?

You can take steps to prevent some types of liver disease — especially those affected by your diet and lifestyle. If you are at risk for liver disease, your provider may recommend lifestyle changes including:

  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol.
  • Avoiding foods and drinks that contain trans fats or high-fructose corn syrup.
  • Carefully managing your intake of prescription and over-the-counter medications to avoid liver damage, as medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol®) are a common cause of liver injury.
  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Limiting consumption of red meat.

You can minimize the likelihood of contracting viral hepatitis by practicing safe sex and not sharing needles.

When should I call the doctor?

You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:

  • Changes in the color of your urine or stool.
  • Jaundice or yellowing of your eyes.
  • Pain in the upper right side of your abdomen.
  • Swelling in your arms or legs.


There are many types of liver disease, which can be caused by infections, inherited conditions, obesity and misuse of alcohol. Over time, liver disease may lead to scarring and more serious complications. Early treatment can help heal the damage and prevent liver failure.

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