What Causes Liver Disease?

The term “liver disease” can be applied to any of the numerous conditions that can damage your liver. Generally, liver disease refers to liver inflammation and/or cell damage, such as scarring. There are different types of liver disease, each of which may have a different cause. Before we identify the various types of liver disease and their known causes, it will be helpful to take a quick look at the liver and the functions it performs.

What Does the Liver Do?

Your liver is one of the largest organs in your body, second in size only to your skin. The liver performs many essential functions, including filtering toxins from your blood, separating nutrients from waste during the digestive process and producing substances that help your body metabolize proteins, carbohydrates and fats. When you consider what a heavy-duty multi-tasker the liver is, it is easy to understand how untreated liver damage or disease can lead to serious consequences.

How Common Is Liver Disease?

According to the American Liver Foundation, more than 100 million Americans have some form of liver disease. This estimate includes about 4.5 million adults who have received a liver disease diagnosis, plus thousands of children with a liver disease diagnosis and millions of other people who have undiagnosed fatty liver disease.

What Causes Different Types of Liver Disease?

One of the most common types of liver disease is hepatitis, which is typically caused by a viral infection but can be caused by bacteria, parasites, toxins (including alcohol) and overuse of certain drugs like acetaminophen. The three main types of hepatitis are:

  • Hepatitis A – This is a short-term type of liver disease that’s usually caused by consuming contaminated food or water.
  • Hepatitis B – Spread through bodily fluids such as blood and semen, the virus that causes hepatitis B can lead to short-term or chronic liver inflammation.
  • Hepatitis C – The virus that causes this potentially serious liver disease is spread through contact with blood from an infected person. This can happen through transfusions of contaminated blood, shared use of needles or razors or sexual activity.

Some other liver disease causes include:

Over-Consumption of Toxins

For example, alcohol-related fatty liver disease and cirrhosis (liver scarring) are caused by heavy alcohol consumption, while non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease is caused by consuming too much fat, in certain individuals. Non-alcoholic liver disease can also include a genetic predisposition and is often seen in conjunction with diabetes and high cholesterol. It is part of the “metabolic syndrome”.

Autoimmune Disorders

When the body’s immune system perceives the liver as a threat and mistakenly attacks it, that can cause liver diseases such as primary biliary cholangitis and autoimmune hepatitis.

Genetic Predisposition

Some examples of inherited liver diseases are hemochromatosis, Wilson disease and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.


Though rare, malignant tumors can form in the liver or its bile ducts. As with other types of cancer, the exact causes of liver cancer are not yet fully understood. But viral infections of liver cells can lead to DNA mutation, which can turn healthy liver cells into cancerous ones.

Can Liver Disease Be Prevented?

Some types of liver disease cannot be prevented, but adopting healthy lifestyle habits can go a long way toward preventing the most common causes of liver disease. Here are some tips for keeping your liver healthy and functioning well:

  • Avoid drinking alcohol or limit your consumption to the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): one drink per day for women and two for men.
  • Wear gloves and a protective face mask when using aerosol cleaning products and pesticides, and make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area.
  • If you get tattoos or body piercings, make sure you choose a reputable studio that sterilizes equipment with an autoclave and does not reuse needles.
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.
  • Do not have unprotected sex with multiple partners.
  • Take medications as directed and only when needed.
  • Visit your doctor regularly, follow medical guidance for weight and blood pressure control and get liver disease screenings if recommended.
  • Make sure you tell your healthcare providers about any medicines, supplements and herbal remedies you take, and do not consume alcohol with drugs.

Following a healthy diet can help prevent liver disease as well as provide support for a weakened liver. It’s a good idea to avoid saturated fat and refined carbohydrates, including sugar, white bread, white rice and pasta made from white flour. You should also avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish and limit your consumption of red meat and salt. A better alternative is to eat fresh fruits and vegetables as well as legumes, lean poultry and fish.

Where to Find Liver Disease Care in the Tampa Bay Area

Florida Medical Clinic Orlando Health offers a wide array of gastroenterology services, including diagnosis and treatment of liver disease. Our highly qualified gastroenterology team, including Natasha Bell, APRN, is committed to providing individualized patient care that is as convenient as possible. Visit our Gastroenterology office in Brandon, FL.

Whether you have been diagnosed with liver disease or you’re concerned that you might be experiencing liver disease symptoms, you can reach out to us today at 813.280.7100 to schedule an appointment.

About Natasha Bell, APRN

Natasha Bell, APRN is board certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.  Her special interests include general gut health, nutrition and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Natasha is originally from Rockledge, on the east coast of Florida.  She relocated to Brandon in 2020 after finishing her Master’s degree. She is a self-proclaimed “book nerd” who enjoys learning new things whenever she can and enjoys spending time in nature and at the beach with her kids.



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