Common Liver Diseases

Part of: Gut Health

The liver is the largest internal organ in the body. It performs important functions such as:

  • Processing everything that we eat and drink
  • Filtering harmful substances from our blood
  • Regulating metabolism and blood clotting
  • Synthesising protein for our body
  • Storing vitamins and iron
  • Producing bile

A breakdown or disruption in any of these processes may lead to severe complications. Left untreated, advanced liver diseases can cause liver failure or death.

Learn more about the common diseases that affect the liver:

Collapse All
Expand All

Hepatitis refers to the swelling of the liver cells. It can be caused by:

  • Toxins
  • Alcohol
  • Fatty liver
  • Viral infections
  • Iron or copper overload
  • Immune disorders
  • Bile duct diseases
  • Genetic diseases

Hepatitis A, B and C are common forms of viral hepatitis. Each type of viral hepatitis spreads through different methods and requires unique treatment methods.

Learn more about hepatitis A, B and C, as well as the treatments we offer.

Fatty liver disease occurs when too much fat is stored in your liver. Fat is stored in the liver when the body creates too much fat or cannot process fat fast enough.

Though it is normal for the liver to contain some fat, fat should not make up more than 5% of your liver's weight.

Fatty liver disease usually has no symptoms and is a reversible condition. There are 2 main types of fatty liver disease:

  1. Alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is caused by heavy drinking of alcohol.
  2. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is a condition in people who drink little to no alcohol. Though patients do not show symptoms often, the fat can lead to other liver conditions.

What is liver fibrosis?

Liver fibrosis is the formation of large amounts of scar tissue in the liver. Scar tissues form when healthy liver cells attempt to self-repair in response to serious or long-term injury or inflammation in the liver.

Repeated or long-lasting injuries can cause scar tissue to build up in the liver. Unlike healthy liver cells, these scar tissues cannot regenerate or function well, contributing to liver hardening and failure.

What causes liver fibrosis?

Liver fibrosis can result from different liver diseases and conditions. The main causes include:

  • Chronic alcohol consumption
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is caused by excess fat in the liver.
  • Hepatitis B and C infection

Other causes include:

  • Frequent exposure to environmental toxins and drugs.
  • Poorly formed or blocked bile ducts, which causes bile to accumulate in the liver.
  • Primary biliary cholangitis, an autoimmune disease where damaged bile ducts cause bile to accumulate in the liver.
  • Autoimmune hepatitis, which is a liver disease caused by the body’s own immune system.
  • Schistosomiasis, which is a parasitic infection common in developing countries.
  • Wilson’s disease, caused by the build-up of copper in the liver.

What are the symptoms of liver fibrosis?

In its early stages, liver fibrosis does not usually cause symptoms. As more of the liver is damaged, you may start to experience symptoms such as:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Oedema (swelling due to fluid build-up) in the legs or stomach
  • Jaundice (yellowish skin and eyes)
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Digestive tract bleeding
  • Weakness
  • Nausea

How is liver fibrosis treated?

Liver fibrosis can be slowed and even stopped or reversed if detected early. Treatments generally focus on the disease that is damaging the liver, or lifestyle changes. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Treating infections promptly
  • Treating hepatitis B or C, or other liver diseases
  • Maintaining a healthy and well-balanced diet consisting of low sodium, low-fat food and sufficient fruits and vegetables
  • Avoiding raw seafood to reduce the risk of foodborne infection
  • Exercising regularly and having adequate rest

Speak to our gastroenterologists for the diagnosis and treatment of liver fibrosis.

Liver cirrhosis refers to severe scarring of the liver. Scarring occurs when healthy liver cells are replaced by scar tissue.

If the liver is continually injured, it can result in large amounts of scar tissue and damage your liver functions. This damage is permanent — the more scar tissue there is, the harder it is for your liver to function.

If you have major liver damage, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • Black stools
  • Changes in personality and confusion in severe cases
  • Fluid build up in the abdomen (ascites)
  • Jaundice (yellowish eyes and skin)
  • Loss of weight and loss of appetite

Learn more about liver cirrhosis and its treatments.

Liver cancer is an abnormal growth of tissue in the liver. It is more common in Asia than in Western countries. The most common causes of liver cancer include:

Liver cancer may also be caused by inherited liver conditions and a poison called aflatoxin (found in mouldy peanuts, wheat, soy and grain).

In its early stage, liver cancer often does not present symptoms. As it develops, symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Pain in the upper right abdominal area
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice

Find out more about liver cancer and its treatments.

This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.