Liver Diseases: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

icon-blog By -Dr. Aaksha Shukla
icon-blog By -February 19, 2024
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Liver Diseases: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

The liver is around the size of a football. It lies immediately under your rib cage on the right side of your abdomen. The liver is responsible for food digestion and the removal of toxins from the body. When your liver fails to function properly, it can harm your entire body. Liver disease is a broad term that encompasses any disorder affecting your liver.
Liver disease may be inherited (genetic). Viruses, alcohol consumption, and obesity can all contribute to liver disorders. Over time, liver-damaging disorders can cause scarring (cirrhosis), which can progress to liver failure, a potentially fatal condition. However, early treatment may allow the liver time to heal.

What Are The General Signs & Symptoms?

Liver disease symptoms vary according to the underlying cause. It is also possible that someone has liver disease but has no symptoms. However, there are a few general symptoms that may suggest significant liver disease.
These include:

  • Jaundice: yellowish skin and eyes
  • Abdominal pain and swelling: enlarged stomach due to ascites, which may make it uncomfortable to lie down or eat
  • Encephalopathy:  a brain issue resulting in marked changes in mood, sleep, and cognition
  • Swelling in the legs and ankles
  • Itchy skin
  • Dark urine color
  • Pale stool color
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tendency to bruise easily

Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any persistent signs or symptoms that are worrying you. If you are experiencing significant stomach pain and are unable to remain still, get medical treatment immediately.


Liver disease has many causes.
Infection: Parasites and viruses can infect the liver, resulting in inflammation and reduced liver function. The viruses that cause liver disease can be transmitted via blood or sperm, contaminated food or water, or close contact with an affected person. Hepatitis viruses are the most common causes of liver infections, including:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C

Immune System Abnormality: Autoimmune diseases, which occur when your immune system attacks certain parts of your body, can affect your liver. Examples of autoimmune liver disorders are:

  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Primary biliary cholangitis
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis

Genetics: An abnormal gene inherited from one or both parents might cause several kinds of substances to build up in your liver, resulting in liver disease. Genetic liver disorders include the following:

  • Hemochromatosis
  • Wilson's disease
  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency

Cancer and Other Growths

Examples include:

  • Liver cancer
  • Bile duct cancer
  • Liver adenoma


Additional, common causes of liver disease are:

  • Long-term alcohol abuse
  • Fat deposition in the liver (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease).
  • Certain prescribed or over-the-counter medications
  • Some herbal substances

Risk Factors: Factors that may increase your risk of liver disease include:

  • Heavy alcohol use(According to the CDC, more than 8 alcoholic drinks per week for women and more than 15 drinks per week for men) 
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. 
  • Getting a tattoo or body piercing using non-sterile needles
  • Injecting  drugs with shared needles
  • Blood transfusions before 1992
  • exposure to other people's blood and body fluids.
  • Unprotected sex is having sex without protection against sexually transmitted illnesses.
  • exposure to certain chemicals or toxins
  • Family history of liver disease.
  • having a job that exposes you to blood and other bodily fluids.
  • consuming particular vitamin supplements or herbs, especially in high amounts.
  • Mixing specific drugs with alcohol
  • Taking more than the prescribed dose of some drugs

Complications:The complications of liver illness differ according to the cause of your liver problems. Untreated liver illness can lead to hepatic failure, a life-threatening condition.

Prevention: To prevent liver disease:

Drink Alcohol In Moderation: For healthy people, that equals one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Heavy or high-risk drinking is defined as consuming more than eight drinks per week for women and more than fifteen drinks per week for men.

Avoid Risky Behavior: Wear a condom during sexual interaction. If you're planning to have tattoos or body piercings, choose a shop that prioritizes hygiene and safety. Seek treatment if you use any drug injections, and don't share needles.

Get Vaccinated: If you are at high risk of contracting hepatitis or have previously been infected with any type of hepatitis virus, consult your doctor about getting the hepatitis A and B vaccines.

Use Medications Wisely: Prescription and nonprescription medications should only be taken when necessary and in the recommended dosages. Do not mix drugs and alcohol. Consult your doctor before adding herbal supplements with prescription or nonprescription medications. Avoid making contact with other people's blood and bodily fluids. Hepatitis viruses can spread through unintentional needle sticks or incorrect blood or bodily fluid cleansing.

Keep Your Food Safe: Wash your hands thoroughly before eating or preparing food. Drink clean water, and if possible, use bottled water to drink, wash hands, and brush teeth.

Protect Your Skin: Take care when using aerosol sprays. When spraying pesticides, fungicides, paint, or other harmful chemicals, wear a mask and work in a well-ventilated environment. Always adhere to the manufacturer's directions.

What Are The Types Of Liver Problems?

Many conditions can affect your liver. Here’s a look at some of the main ones.
Hepatitis:  Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The term "viral hepatitis" describes inflammation produced by a virus. Hepatitis can damage the liver, making it difficult for it to operate normally. The majority of forms of viral hepatitis are communicable, but you can lower your risk by being vaccinated for types A and B and taking other precautions, such as using a condom during sex and not sharing needles.

The five kinds of hepatitis are:

  • Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is commonly transmitted by contact with contaminated food or water. Symptoms may improve without treatment, but recovery can take several weeks.
  • Hepatitis B: This kind of viral hepatitis may be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). It is transmitted through body fluids such as blood and sperm. Hepatitis B can be treated, but it cannot be cured. Early treatment is critical for avoiding issues, so get regular checkups if you're at risk.
  • Hepatitis C: Hepatitis C can be either acute or chronic. Contact with hepatitis C-infected blood is a common route of transmission. While it rarely causes symptoms in the early stages, it can eventually cause chronic liver damage.
  • Hepatitis D: This is a lethal type of hepatitis that only occurs in people with hepatitis B; it cannot be acquired on its own. It might be acute or chronic.
  • Hepatitis E: Hepatitis E is typically caused by consuming polluted water. In most cases, it resolves itself within a few weeks with no long-lasting complications.

Fatty Liver Disease

  • Fat buildup in the liver can cause fatty liver disease.
  • There are two kinds of fatty liver disease. These two categories can manifest alone or overlap.
  • Alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by drinking too much alcohol.
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by other factors that experts are currently trying to understand.

Without treatment, both types of fatty liver disease may lead to liver damage, which can cause cirrhosis and liver failure. Dietary and lifestyle modifications can typically improve symptoms and reduce your risk of problems.

Autoimmune Conditions

  • Autoimmune disorders occur when your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your body.
  • Several autoimmune disorders involve the immune system targeting cells in the liver, including:

Autoimmune Hepatitis

This condition causes your immune system to attack your liver, which produces inflammation. Without treatment, it can progress to cirrhosis and liver failure.

Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC):This is caused by damage to your liver's bile ducts, which leads to bile accumulation. PBC can eventually cause cirrhosis and liver failure.
Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis: This inflammatory disorder gradually damages your bile ducts. They gradually become blocked, causing bile to accumulate in your liver. This can cause cirrhosis or liver failure.
Genetic Conditions:Several genetic disorders that you inherit from one of your parents may also harm the liver:
Hemochromatosis causes your body to retain more iron than necessary. This iron remains in your organs, including the liver. If not addressed properly, this might cause long-term damage. Wilson's disease causes the liver to absorb copper rather than release it into the bile ducts. Eventually, your liver may become too damaged to hold more copper, allowing it to enter your bloodstream and harm other parts of your body, including your brain. Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency occurs when your liver is unable to produce enough alpha-1 antitrypsin, a protein that helps prevent enzyme breakdown throughout your body. The condition might cause lung and liver problems. There is no cure, although medication can help.

Drug-Induced Liver Disease: According to different research, overexposure to certain medicines and supplements can damage your liver. In many instances, this harm can be reversed if you stop using the medication. However, if it continues, the damage may become chronic.
Cancer: Liver cancer starts in your liver. Secondary liver cancer occurs when cancer spreads from another part of the body to the liver.
The most prevalent type of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma. It usually develops as multiple small cancerous spots in your liver, although it can sometimes start as a single tumor. Complications of other liver diseases, especially those that are untreated, may lead to the development of liver cancer.

Cirrhosis: Cirrhosis is scarring caused by liver illnesses and other forms of liver injury, such as alcohol use disorder. Cystic fibrosis and syphilis can also induce liver damage and, eventually, cirrhosis, however these two conditions are far less prevalent. Your liver can repair in response to harm, but this usually leads to the formation of scar tissue. The more scar tissue that forms, the more difficult it is for your liver to function normally. Cirrhosis can typically be treated early on by addressing the underlying cause. However, if not treated, it might cause additional difficulties and even death at some point.

Liver Failure: Chronic liver failure often occurs when a major portion of your liver is damaged and unable to function normally. Liver failure caused by liver disease and cirrhosis usually progresses gradually. You may not have any symptoms at first. However, after time, you might begin to notice:
Symptoms can include jaundice, diarrhea, disorientation, exhaustion, and weakness.
nausea. It's a critical ailment that requires regular medical attention.
On the other hand, acute liver failure occurs rapidly, and generally as a result of an overdose or poisoning.

Preventing Liver Disease: While not all liver disease or damage can be avoided, lifestyle choices can have a significant impact on keeping your liver healthy. Many of the prevention measures involve food choices and physical activity, just like the risk factors mentioned previously.
You may help prevent liver disease by:

  • Eating a healthful diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains
  • Increase physical activity and restrict alcohol use.
  • Avoid smoking and narcotics, keep a healthy weight, and exercise caution while using harmful chemicals such as aerosol cleaners, bug sprays, and cleaning products.
  • Use a condom or other barrier technique during intercourse. 
  • Schedule annual physical checkups with blood tests.

How Are Liver Diseases Diagnosed?

If you have any concerns about liver illness, you should consult a healthcare expert. They'll start by reviewing your medical history and inquiring about any family history of liver disease. They will most likely ask you questions about the symptoms you are having, such as when they began and whether certain items make them better or worse. Depending on your symptoms, they may probably inquire about your drinking and eating habits. Tell them about any prescription or over-the-counter medications you take, including vitamins and supplements.
After reviewing all of this information, they may make the following recommendations:

  • Liver function testing.
  • A whole blood count test
  • CT scans, MRIs, or ultrasounds to detect liver damage or tumors
  • A liver biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of your liver is removed and examined for symptoms of damage or illness.

How are they treated?

Many liver illnesses are chronic, which means they persist for years and may never go. However, even chronic liver problems may typically be treated.
For some people, lifestyle adjustments are sufficient to alleviate symptoms. These may include:

  • Limiting alcohol
  • Keep a reasonable weight.
  • Drink more water

A liver-friendly diet should include plenty of fiber and limit harmful fats, processed sugar, and salt.

  • Depending on your liver condition, your doctor may recommend additional dietary modifications. People with Wilson's disease, for example, should limit their intake of copper-rich foods such as shellfish, mushrooms, and almonds.

Depending on the health of your liver, you may also require medical treatment, such as:

  • Antiviral medicines for treating hepatitis
  • Steroids to reduce liver inflammation and blood pressure medicine.
  • Treatment options include antibiotics, drugs for particular symptoms like itchy skin, and vitamins and nutrients to improve liver health.
  • In some situations, you may require surgery to remove all or part of your liver. In most cases, a liver transplant is performed after all other treatments have failed.


Many liver illnesses are treatable if caught early. Without treatment, they might cause irreparable damage.Complications of untreated or uncontrolled liver illness might result in cirrhosis, which is permanent scarring. If cirrhosis has progressed too far, a liver transplant may be your only option.Because certain liver problems develop without symptoms, scheduling annual physicals, in addition to routine blood work, can help you and your doctor keep one step ahead.A good diet, regular physical activity, and other healthy lifestyle choices, such as reducing alcohol consumption, can all help with prevention or management.


What is a Type 4 liver disease?

Stage 4: Liver Failure
Liver failure can be acute or chronic. Acute liver failure happens quickly (within 48 hours), generally as a reaction to toxicity or a drug overdose. Chronic liver failure, on the other hand, happens gradually over time as the liver progresses through each of the four stages.

What are the most common liver diseases?

The viruses that cause liver damage can be spread through blood or semen, contaminated food or water, or close contact with a person who is infected. The most common types of liver infection are hepatitis viruses, including: Hepatitis A. Hepatitis B.

What are the different liver diseases?

There are many kinds of liver diseases: Diseases caused by viruses, such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Diseases caused by drugs, poisons, or too much alcohol. Examples include fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.

What are the 3 stages of liver disease?

Inflammation. fibrosis. cirrhosis. end-stage liver disease (ESLD)

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