Your liver does a lot of things that keep you healthy. It turns nutrients into chemicals your body needs. It filters out poisons. It helps turn food into energy. So when your liver doesn’t work well, that can affect your whole body.
Different things can cause serious liver conditions. You’ll want to know about the top causes.
Sometimes, the problem is that you have an infection that inflames your liver. Viral hepatitis is the most common cause, including:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Inflammation of the liver, usually caused by viruses like hepatitis A, B, and C. Hepatitis can have non-infectious causes too, including heavy drinking, drugs, allergic reactions, or obesity.
Long-term damage to the liver from any cause can lead to permanent scarring, called cirrhosis. The liver then becomes unable to function well.
The most common type of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, almost always occurs after cirrhosis is present.
Liver failure has many causes including infection, genetic diseases, and excessive alcohol.
As cirrhosis results, the liver leaks fluid (ascites) into the belly, which becomes distended and heavy.
If a gallstone becomes stuck in the bile duct draining the liver, hepatitis and bile duct infection (cholangitis) can result.
Hemochromatosis allows iron to deposit in the liver, damaging it. The iron also deposits throughout the body, causing multiple other health problems.
Primary sclerosing cholangitis
A rare disease with unknown causes, primary sclerosing cholangitis causes inflammation and scarring in the bile ducts in the liver.
Primary biliary cirrhosis
In this rare disorder, an unclear process slowly destroys the bile ducts in the liver. Permanent liver scarring (cirrhosis) eventually develops.