Home Health A-Z Liver Damage : Types, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Liver Damage : Types, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Verified By Dr Naveen Polavarapu January 21, 2021 31168 0
Liver damage : Types, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
Liver damage : Types, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

The human liver is a very important organ in the human body. It is the size of a football and is essential for filtering toxic substances from the body. Keeping this organ healthy and in optimal working condition is very important. Unfortunately, there are multiple ways by which one can harm or damage their liver.

There is a plethora of liver diseases, but we as humans can also damage our livers by other means. Unhealthy eating habits or just an unhealthy lifestyle can damage the liver. Some of the main causes of liver damage can be associated with alcohol use, viruses, and obesity.

What is Liver damage?

Liver damage or liver failure is when the human liver is too damaged to function properly, causing severe pain and other issues. Most people with liver disease do not look or feel sick even though their liver is getting damaged. At some point in the progression of liver disease, damage can become irreversible and lead to liver cancer, liver failure or death.

What are the different types of liver damage?

Liver failure can be acute or chronic. When liver failure is acute, it happens suddenly without warning or symptoms. The person is often not aware their liver is facing an issue. Suddenly, their liver can shut down.

When liver failure is chronic, it happens gradually, and the symptoms are seen over time. This is how most people find out that their liver is facing issues. In such cases, the patient has a chance to get the right medical help they need, before things get worse.

What are the symptoms of liver damage?

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of liver damage are:

  • Jaundice. The patient’s eyes and skin appear yellowish. This is caused due to a high level of bilirubin in the patient’s body.
  • Bleeding easily. Bleeding is seen when a liver failure occurs. This bleeding can occur from the gums and can be noticed when the patient is brushing their teeth.
  • Swollen belly. As the liver is in the abdomen, when a liver failure occurs, the abdomen swells up. The patient also feels pain or discomfort in the abdominal area.
  • Sleepiness. In many cases, the patient will feel very sleepy. Their sleep cycle can get disrupted, and they tend to feel sleepier than usual.
  • Loss of appetite. The patient will experience a loss of appetite, which will lead to a degradation of their health. Without proper nutrition, their condition tends to worsen.
  • Fatigue. Due to a loss of appetite, you will also feel fatigued or feel a loss of energy. Patients typically have no motivation or energy to perform even daily tasks.
  • Blood vomiting or Black stools.

Also Read : Liver Function Test Normal Range

When to see a doctor?

When you notice these basic, common symptoms of liver failure, it is best to be checked by a doctor. This is a precaution to make sure the situation does not worsen. When the symptoms of abdominal pain and jaundice appear, it is best to see a medical professional or doctor immediately.

What are the causes of liver failure?

There can be multiple causes of liver failure. One of the most common and well known is alcohol abuse. Liver failure can also be caused by an infection, a compromised immune system, genetics, cancer, and other lifestyle-based factors.

There are many viruses and parasites that can cause infection, which may lead to liver failure. They cause inflammation, which results in lowered performance of the liver. These viruses can spread through the blood, food, water, as well as another infected person. Some common viruses that can lead to liver damage or failure are hepatitis A, B, C and E. There are some diseases that can the body to attack different parts of itself, including your liver. These autoimmune diseases can cause liver damage or other diseases. There are 100 different reasons which can cause liver damage.

What are the risk factors of liver damage or failure?

There are certain factors that can increase your chances of developing liver failure or damage. Some of the risk factors include:

  • Alcohol use. Heavy alcohol usage is known to be one of the most common risk factors for liver damage. Alcohol is known to damage the liver over time, resulting in liver failure.
  • Obesity. An unhealthy lifestyle can easily lead to fat build-up in the liver that can slow down the organ’s functions. This, in time, can lead to liver damage or failure.
  • Family history. Family history can also lead to a high risk of developing liver-related issues. If the parents or grandparents have a liver-related issue, then there is a high chance that the children can develop it as well.
  • Exposure to infected blood. If the patient is exposed to infected blood, there is a high chance for them to face contamination of the blood and develop liver failure.

Stages of liver failure or damage

  • Inflammation. Inflation is the early stage. In this stage, the liver is inflamed or enlarged
  • Fibrosis. In the inflamed liver, scar tissue starts to replace healthy tissue
  • Cirrhosis. Severe scarring has formed, making it difficult for the liver to function well.
  • End-stage liver disease (ESLD). ESLD is a condition where the liver function got deteriorated and damaged to the point where it cannot be reversed. The only treatment could be a liver transplant.
  • Liver cancer. unhealthy cells can develop and multiply in the liver at any stage of liver failure, although people with cirrhosis are more at risk

What are the complications of liver damage?

The complications of liver damage depend on the severity of the condition. If left untreated, a damaged liver can go into failure.  This can soon become a life-threatening condition. Some common complications include:

  1. Hepatic encephalopathy, a disorder of the brain
  2. Pneumonia and urinary tract infections
  3. Kidney failure
  4. Blood clotting problems

What are the treatments for liver damage?

The treatment for liver failure depends on the stage of damage.

  • Supportive care for the early stage. When liver damage is in the early stages, then supportive care can be the best option. In most cases the liver recovers on its own.
  • Medication. Medication is recommended when the liver damage is in a higher or second stage. The medicine is intended to slow down the progressive nature of the damage and to help the liver recover from the damage.
  • Liver transplant. This is done in the last stage when the liver cannot be saved, or the damage cannot be reversed. The patient’s liver or a part of the liver is removed and replaced with a healthier one.

How to prevent liver damage?      

Liver damage can be prevented through the following lifestyle changes:

  1. Moderating alcohol intake
  2. regular exercise
  3. Having protected sex
  4. Getting vaccinated for hepatitis B
  5. Using only prescribed medication
  6. Avoiding unhygienic food
  7. Avoiding use of contaminated syringes


Liver damage if not caught or treated on time, can lead to liver failure, which can soon become life-threatening. This can easily be avoided with regular checkups at a medical center and being aware of the risk factors that can lead to liver damage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What substances can cause liver damage?

Acetaminophen or Paracetamol in large amounts can lead to liver damage. Numerous antibiotics and statins can also lead to liver damage. Vitamin A in excessive amounts can easily cause liver damage as well.

What are the main causes of chronic liver disease in India?

Alcohol abuse is one of the main causes as it reduces the functioning or performance of the liver. This can cause inflammation, which results in extreme scarring of the liver.

Does liver damage present differently in men and women?

Liver damage, as well as liver failure, is more common in men than in women. About 70% of individuals who develop autoimmune hepatitis are women. This is usually seen between the ages of 15 and 40.

Verified By Dr Naveen Polavarapu
MRCP (UK), FRCP(GLASGOW), CCT(GASTRO), Liver Transplant Fellow(BIRMINGHAM, UK), Hepatologist & Transplant Hepatologist, Apollo Hospitals, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad

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