Understanding Liver Disease
Liver disease refers to any damage or disorder that limits or reduces the function of the liver. It can be genetic (inherited) or acquired (something that develops because of infection, unhealthy behaviors or habits, or exposure to certain toxins). At CHOC Children’s we work with patients and their families to diagnose and treat a variety liver diseases including:
Biliary atresia is a chronic, progressive liver problem that becomes evident shortly after birth. In biliary atresia, bile ducts in the liver are blocked. When the bile is unable to leave the liver through the bile ducts, the liver becomes damaged and many vital body functions are affected. Learn more about biliary atresia.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and can result in liver cell damage and destruction. Hepatitis is a concern because it often originates from a virus and can be spread to others. Learn more about hepatitis.
Metabolic Liver Disease
Two main metabolic disorders affect the liver:
- Hemochromatosis (also called iron overload disease). This disease is characterized by the absorption of too much iron from food. Instead of secreting the excess iron, the iron is stored throughout the body, including the liver and pancreas. The excess iron can damage these organs. Hemochromatosis is a hereditary disease that can lead to liver disease, liver failure, liver cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
- Wilson disease. This disease is characterized by the retention of too much copper in the liver. Instead of releasing the copper into the bile, the liver retains the copper. Eventually, the damaged liver releases copper into the bloodstream. This hereditary disease can cause damage to the kidneys, brain and eyes, and can lead to severe brain damage, liver failure and death.
Fatty Liver Disease
Someone who has fat deposits in their liver has fatty liver disease. These deposits may keep the liver from doing a good job of removing toxins from your blood. Learn more about fatty liver disease.
Cirrhosis is damage to the liver that decreases blood flow through it over time. As the normal liver tissue is lost, nutrients, hormones, drugs and poisons are not processed by the liver as they should. In addition, protein production and other substances produced by the liver are decreased or stopped all together. Learn more about cirrhosis.