Chronic Liver Disease: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Updated on 31 March 2023

The liver is the second-largest and one of the most important organs in the body. It lies on the right side of the body and helps in nutrient absorption and excretion. It produces a substance called bile juice that detoxifies the body and aids digestion. However, there are times when its functioning is disrupted by some disease, creating a medical complication. One such medical complication of the liver is Chronic Liver Disease (CLD).

Chronic Liver Disease is a medical condition that damages the liver and affects its functions. Prolonged liver disease causes cirrhosis, a condition in which healthy liver cells are replaced by scar tissues.

Symptoms of Chronic Liver Disease 

Chronic liver diseases symptoms may vary depending on the underlying cause. For example, the disease may cause jaundice in some patients. Jaundice shows symptoms like yellowing of the skin and the white part of the eyes.

Other symptoms of the disease include: 

  • Abdominal pain - pain on the right side of the belly
  • Pale, black and bloody stools 
  • Changed colour of urine
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Fatigue
  • Oedema- Accumulation of fluid in legs or arms
  • Enlarged stomach
  • Changes in sleep, mood and cognition

Causes of Chronic Liver Disease 

Some chronic liver disease causes may include:

  • Infections - Viruses, bacteria and parasites can damage the liver by causing inflammation and reducing its functions. The infection can be spread through contaminated water or food, semen, blood or contact with an infected person. Most liver infections are caused by hepatitis viruses, such as hepatitis A, B and C. 
  • Immunity - Autoimmune disorders are diseases in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the liver of an individual's own body. Some examples of autoimmune liver diseases are autoimmune hepatitis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, and primary biliary cholangitis.
  • Genetics - An abnormal inherited gene from one or both parents can cause the formation of toxic substances in the liver leading to damage. Some genetic liver diseases include Wilson's disease, Hemochromatosis, Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, etc. 
  • Cancer - Tumour growth in the liver leads to liver cancer. This happens when abnormal or infected cells multiply. These tumours can be malignant (tumours spreading in the liver) or benign (tumours not spreading in the liver). 
  • Consumption of Toxins - Consumption of alcohol and nicotine may cause alcoholic fatty liver disease due to the accumulation of fat in the liver.

Diagnosis of Chronic Liver Disease 

The doctor can recommend the following tests to diagnose chronic liver diseases. 

  • Imaging Tests - Imaging tests like ultrasound, CT scans, or MRI look for damage signs and tumours in the liver. Fibroscan, a special type of ultrasound, can help determine the extent of scarring and fat accumulation in the liver. 
  • Liver Biopsy - In a liver biopsy, a doctor inserts a thin needle to collect a sample of liver tissues and analyses them for disease-causing signs. 
  • Blood Tests - These tests measure the levels of enzymes produced by the liver in the blood. Abnormal enzyme levels indicate irregularities in liver functioning.

Treatment of Chronic Liver Diseases

Treatment of chronic liver diseases depends on the type of disease and its progression. Some chronic liver disease treatment options include: 

  • Liver Transplant: This is the best treatment option to consider when the disease reaches its optimum level and develops chances of liver failure. In this procedure, a healthy liver obtained from a donor replaces the affected liver. 
  • Medications: Medication helps in alleviating symptoms and treating liver failure associated with hepatitis. 
  • Lifestyle Changes: For individuals suffering from fatty liver diseases, limiting calories and fat, avoiding alcohol and increasing fibre uptake can help. Alcohol-associated diseases can be treated by alcohol cessation or limiting alcohol intake.

Prevention of Chronic Liver Disease

Chronic liver disease prevention can be done by following the given tips.

  • Cut or Reduce Alcohol Consumption - Heavy drinking may cause liver diseases. Hence, it is always advised to curtail alcohol consumption. 
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle - Maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet, and be physically active. 
  • Undergo liver screening tests regularly.


Chronic Liver Disease damages the functioning of the liver which impacts the overall health of the body. The disease comes with various signs, however, the precise cause can only be confirmed through diagnostic tests. Individuals experiencing related symptoms are recommended to seek professional help.





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