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Last Updated: June 15, 2019
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Liver Disease: Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments And Side Effects

What is a liver disease?

Your liver is a significant organ that is essential for digesting the foods and getting rid of the toxic products from your body. The liver is also one of the strongest organs in the human body and is not easily susceptible to damages. However, there are factors –both internal and external that can cause considerable damages to the liver. The liver disease can be inherited by genetic nature, or they can be due to factors such as viruses, your lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse and obesity. If these conditions are left unchecked, they result in the scarring of the liver known as cirrhosis. The symptoms can lead to liver failure on the whole and can often be life-threatening.

What are the various types of liver diseases?

There are more than a hundred kinds of liver diseases. Some common liver diseases are as follows:

  1. Fascioliasis: Which is a parasitic infection of the liver.
  2. Liver cirrhosis
  3. Hepatitis A: Which does not usually progress to a chronic state and rarely requires hospitalisation.
  4. Hepatitis B: It can be acute and chronic.
  5. Hepatitis C is much more likely to pass to a chronic state.
  6. Hepatitis D is difficult to treat. Effective treatments too are lacking.
  7. Hepatitis E is similar to Hepatitis A
  8. Alcoholic hepatitis: First-line treatment is the treatment of alcoholism. But a severe case of alcoholic hepatitis is difficult to treat. Alcoholic liver disease is the hepatic manifestation of alcohol overconsumption including fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis and chronic hepatitis with liver fibrosis or cirrhosis.
  9. Gilbert’s syndrome

Hepatitis is the inflammation of liver tissue caused by various viruses (viral hepatitis), by liver toxins (alcoholic hepatitis), autoimmunity (autoimmune hepatitis) or hereditary conditions.

What are the signs and symptoms of liver disease?

Many symptoms are associated with a liver condition. The common symptoms can include:

  • Skin and eyes appearing yellowish

  • Abdominal swelling

  • Experiencing an itchy skin

  • Dark urine colour.

  • Nausea

  • Fatigue

  • General feeling of weakness

  • Vomits

  • Bruises

What causes liver disease?

Common causes of liver diseases are:

  • Long-term alcohol consumption

  • Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C

  • Fatty liver disease

  • Jaundice

  • Genetic disorders

How to diagnose liver disease?

As the symptoms are pretty rare in the early condition, liver diseases are often diagnosed when the person is being tested for some other disease. And If any of the mentioned symptoms seem to appear then that person should consult the doctor immediately. If doctors find any relevance to the diseases with your symptoms the following tests may also be ordered:

  • Blood test: Little amounts of blood is collected to perform lab tests to how well liver performs.

  • Imaging tests: Imaging tests are performed to detect any unusual activity across the liver tissues.

  • Biopsy: Small tissue of the liver cells are taken and sent for biopsy to detect the disease.

  • Endoscopy: It is performed to detect swollen blood vessels which may lead to liver diseases.

What are the treatments for liver disease?

For the treatment of various liver diseases, a number of different medicines, treatments, therapies are available:

  • Triclabendazole: It is used for the treatment of Fascioliasis. The drug works by preventing the polymerization of the molecule tubulin.
  • Nitazoxanide: It is effective in trails but is not currently recommended.

  • Treatment for Hepatitis A and hepatitis E is generally supportive and includes procedures like providing intravenous hydration and maintaining adequate nutrition. This disease rarely requires hospitalization.

  • Antiviral therapy: In severe acute cases of Hepatitis B patients are treated with antiviral therapy, with nucleoside analogues such as entecavir or tenofovir. Experts recommend reserving treatment for severe acute cases and not mild to moderate.

  • Chronic hepatitis B aims to control viral replication. Treatments include Pegylated interferon which is dosed once a week. Lamivudine is used in areas where newer agent have not been approved or are too costly. Entecavir is a safe and well-tolerated drug and is a first-line treatment choice. Currently used first-line treatments include PEG IFN, Entecavir and Tenofovir.

  • Hepatitis C treatment includes prevention of hepatocellular carcinoma and the best way to reduce long term risk of HCC is to achieve sustained virological response. Currently available treatments include PEG IFN, Ribavirin. In high resource countries, direct-acting antiviral agents are used which targets proteins responsible for viral replication.

  • Hepatitis D is difficult to treat. Inferno Alpha has proven effective at inhibiting viral activity but temporarily. Hospitalization may be required in case of severe cases of Hepatitis E.

  • Alcoholic hepatitis treatment includes pentoxifylline, corticosteroids etc.

  • Treatment of alcoholic liver disease includes Sylimarin but with the ambiguous result. In case of serious cases of fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia, and those that reduce weight are beneficial to the liver.

  • For patients having non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, there are no available therapies. Damage from Cirrhosis cannot be reversed but further progress can only be delayed and complications can be reduced. A healthy diet is encouraged. Some conventional medicines are Corticosteroids and Ursodiol.

  • Wilson's disease is treated with chelation therapy. Liver transplantation becomes necessary if liver damage cannot be controlled.

Who would need treatment for liver disease?

Any individual who is affected by liver infections or who has the symptoms of liver disease can undergo the procedures. It will be advisable if you can consult with your doctor immediately once you know the symptoms. The actual treatment may depend on the type of infection your liver has and the sooner you take action, the better.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

Anyone can qualify for the treatment and irrespective of the medical condition you have, you must have the treatment for the liver problems. There can be some medications that may not work with you and your body type. Hence get a detailed consultation with your physician about your medical history and your allergic symptoms.

Are there any side effects?

It depends on the type of treatment you are undergoing. Some of the treatments can include just changes to your lifestyle and your dietary patterns, whereas others can include drugs and medications and surgeries. In the case of hepatitis condition, the drugs used are very strong in nature and can cause serious side effects. Discuss these symptoms with your doctor in detail, and they can guide you accordingly.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

Liver disorders are a serious condition, and after the successful treatment, you have to ensure that the liver does not get affected in any way. Your doctor will lay out a detailed chart about your lifestyle and the dietary pattern that you should follow. You must avoid drinking, smoking and drug abuse. Obesity can also affect the liver. Hence you may be needed to undergo a strict weight loss regime.

How long does it take for the liver to heal after the treatment?

The recovery period depends on the type of ailment you have and the treatment given to you. If your condition is minor, some lifestyle changes are needed. However, in cases of serious complications, you might have to take a complete course for the recovery to happen. For example, if you are diagnosed with Hepatitis condition you might have to take the drugs and medications for a longer period. Also, the drugs work differently for every person. Hence it depends on how robust your liver gets, after the treatment.

What is the price of treatment in India?

In case of transplantation there are some criterias which are considered for the safety of the patients. Physical criterias and a solid support system before the surgery are very important factors. If any one is undergoing symptoms like nausea, vomiting, right upper quadrant abdominal pain, jaundice, fatigue, weakness and weight loss then it is better to check whether these are indicating towards liver diseases.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

Permanency of results depends on the disease. There remains a risk of rejection of the new organ in case of transplantations and patients may need to take immunosuppressive medications for the rest of their lives. Treatment of Hepatitis A in most cases are permanent. So is Hepatitis E treatment. In case of a severe ailment, hospitalization may be required and the duration of treatment may get stretched.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

Alternative treatments include a variety of treatments. One of them is the ayurvedic treatment. Indian Echinacea, Yakrit Plihantak Churna improves liver function, Phyllanthus Niruri is a liver cleanser and liver detox capsules. Amla has liver protection properties. Liquorice can cure ailments like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Amrith is known to clear toxin from the liver and strengthens its function. Some studies have shown that turmeric for its antiviral properties can be used to prevent multiplication of viruses causing Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. certain vegetables help liver secrete greater concentrations of important enzymes. Diet restrictions and lifestyle modifications and de-addiction are some basic requirements to prevent and treat liver diseases.

Key Highlights

Safety: Medium

Effectiveness: Medium

Timeliness: Medium

Relative Risk: High

Side Effects: Medium

Time For Recovery: Medium

Price Range: Rs.1000-Rs.7 lakhs

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