Follow our stories Contact es en

Do you know what liver diseases are?

Do you know what liver diseases are? Do you know what liver diseases are?
10 Sep 2020 02.09PM

In this article you will learn what the main liver diseases are, in addition to their symptoms, causes, treatment and how to prevent them.

Hepatitis A


Hepatitis A is a disease characterized by inflammation and damage of the liver. It is caused by a viral infection that causes inflammation, affecting the liver tissues.

The hepatitis A virus is usually spread by contact with contaminated food or water. Among the causes of infection it can be through:

  • Eating food handled by an infected person who has not washed their hands properly after using the bathroom.

  • Drink water or eat food without being treated or washed with clean water.

  • Being close to an infected person for example, through sexual relations or caring for someone who is sick.


Hepatitis A is an infection that manifests itself for a short duration, for this reason people generally improve without treatment within a few weeks. There are other cases, where hepatitis A can be severe, causing liver failure and the need for an emergency transplant.

It is important to note that after contracting the virus, symptoms usually appear between the second and seventh week. They can last up to six months:

  1. Dark yellowish urine.
  2. Diarrea.
  3. Feeling tired.
  4. Fever.
  5. Gray or clay colored stools.

Now that we know the warning signs, it is appropriate to know that the most important measures to prevent hepatitis A are the vaccine and hand washing. It is worth mentioning that if a person believes they have the virus, it is appropriate to consult a doctor.

To treat hepatitis A, specialists usually indicate rest, consumption of plenty of fluids and a healthy diet. Likewise, medicines are often recommended to alleviate the symptoms.

This infection cannot occur more than once, although the individual can still contract another type of viral hepatitis.


Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is also a viral infection that inflames and affects the liver. Specifically, it is produced by the hepatitis B virus, it is transmitted by coming into contact with the blood, body fluids of an infected person, as well as from mother (infected) to child.

It is important to specify that the vaccine represents an effective prevention tool. On the other hand, those who have hepatitis B must take precautions to prevent transmission to others. In the event that a pregnant woman is infected, she should inform her doctor and staff who care for her, who will proceed to vaccinate the baby at birth against hepatitis B and HBIG.

It is worth mentioning that the hepatitis B virus can cause an acute or chronic infection:

  • Acute hepatitis B: a short-term infection whose symptoms may last several weeks, even six months. Adults and children over 5 years old usually get better without treatment.

  • Chronic hepatitis B: a long-term infection that occurs if the body cannot eradicate the virus. The chances of developing chronic hepatitis B are greater if the individual contracted the virus in childhood.


Chronic hepatitis B can lead to complications such as cirrhosis and liver failure, including liver cancer. To reduce this risk it is important to carry out an early diagnosis and treatment.

Doctors treat hepatitis B if it is chronic, in which case it is usual to use antiviral drugs if necessary; not all patients require treatment. If blood tests indicate that the virus could be damaging your liver, antiviral medications are commonly prescribed. If it causes liver failure or liver cancer, the patient would likely warrant a liver transplant.

To prevent hepatitis B, the vaccine is administered. If you have already come into contact with the virus, doctors usually prescribe the drug “immunoglobulin” against hepatitis B (HBIG) shortly after being in contact with the virus (within 24 hours).


Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is also a viral infection that inflames and damages the liver. It is transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected individual.

It should be noted that there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, yet infection can be prevented, for example, by avoiding sharing items such as nail clippers. Also, if a person is infected, they should consult a doctor. Currently available treatments can cure most cases.

  • Acute hepatitis C: short-term infection, can remain for six months. In some cases the body's defenses fight infection and the virus disappears. Among the most frequent symptoms are: loss of appetite, nausea, pain in the abdomen, vomiting, jaundice (yellowish eyes and skin).

  • Chronic Hepatitis C: A long-term infection that occurs when the body cannot deal with the virus. The diagnosis and treatment carried out on time, contributes to the prevention of liver damage and the development of diseases such as cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer.

Those with hepatitis C can contact their doctor and ask for information about the hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines. They can protect you from these viral infections and cause less damage to your liver.


Autoimmune hepatitis

Autoimmune hepatitis is a chronic disease characterized by the fact that the patient's immune system attacks the liver, causing the organ to become inflamed and damaged. If not treated, complications such as cirrhosis could occur.

The most common warning signs are tiredness, nausea, poor appetite, pain in the joints and liver, as well as jaundice. It is worth mentioning that there are individuals who are asymptomatic when the diagnosis is made, their symptoms can also manifest later.

The cause of this disease is uncertain, even so the treatment provided by health specialists consists of drugs that suppress the immune system, usually corticosteroids with or without azathioprine. On the other hand, if autoimmune hepatitis causes liver failure or liver cancer, the patient probably deserves a transplant.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and NASH

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which fat builds up in the liver. As for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), it is a type of NAFLD.

NAFLD and NASH cause little or no symptoms. Certain health conditions such as obesity and metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes increase the chance of developing NAFLD and NASH.

Doctors recommend weight loss to treat both diseases. It should be noted that there are no approved medications to treat NAFLD or NASH.



Cirrhosis is a condition that causes scarring and damage to the liver. The scar tissue disrupts the proper function of the liver, replacing healthy liver tissue.

Symptoms include fatigue and severe itching of the skin, which may not manifest until the liver is severely damaged. It can be caused by alcoholic liver disease, as well as by chronic NAFLD, hepatitis C and B. Although specific treatment is lacking, many of the diseases that cause it can be treated.



Hemochromatosis is a disorder that occurs when iron accumulates in excess. If left untreated, iron overload can occur, capable of causing damage, for example, to the liver and other parts of the body.

Common symptoms include pain in the abdomen (over the liver) and joints, loss of interest in sex or erectile dysfunction, feeling tired, and darkening of the skin. It should be mentioned that the most common type of hemochromatosis is caused by genetic mutations.

Treatment can help relieve symptoms and prevent complications. It is usually treated with phlebotomy or by drawing about a pint of blood at a time, on a regular schedule.


Biliary atresia

Biliary atresia is a condition found in infants in which the bile ducts outside and inside the liver are marked and blocked. In this sense, the bile does not flow into the intestine, so it accumulates in the liver and damages the organ. This damage causes scarring, loss of liver tissue and function, as well as cirrhosis.

Doctors treat biliary atresia with a surgery called the Kasai procedure, and eventually, in most cases, a liver transplant. It should be mentioned that 80-90% of babies with biliary atresia survive to adulthood.

It is unknown what causes this disease, among the warning signs jaundice stands out. For treatment, they usually perform surgery (Kasai procedure) and, if necessary, liver transplantation.

Now you know what are liver diseases, their symptoms, causes, protection measures and treatment. In this sense, we invite you to follow prevention measures so that you can minimize the risks of contracting them.

Eugenia Jiménez Alvarez, writing
Assistant to the Fundahigado América coordination
Masters of Biomedical Sciences


Daniela Malavé, writing and editing