There are more than 100 different types of liver disease, which together affect at least 2 million people in the UK.

The liver

The liver is the second largest organ in the body. It works hard, performing hundreds of complex functions, including:

  • fighting infections and illness
  • removing toxins (poisons), such as alcohol, from the body
  • controlling cholesterol levels
  • helping blood to clot (thicken)
  • releasing bile, a liquid that breaks down fats and aids digestion

Liver disease doesn't usually cause any obvious signs or symptoms until it's fairly advanced and the liver is damaged.

At this stage, possible symptoms can include loss of appetite, weight loss and jaundice.

Types of liver disease

Listed below are some specific types of liver disease. The links provide more detailed information about each type.

  • Alcohol-related liver disease – where the liver is damaged after years of alcohol misuse, this can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – a build-up of fat within liver cells, usually seen in overweight people or those who are obese
  • Hepatitis – which is inflammation (swelling) of the liver caused by a viral infection or exposure to harmful substances such as alcohol 
  • Haemochromatosis – an inherited disorder where there's a gradual build-up of iron in the body, usually around the liver
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis – a rare, long-term type of liver disease that damages the bile ducts in the liver

It’s important to note that all types of liver disease can cause cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), not just alcohol-related liver disease.

Significant health problem

In the UK, liver disease is on the increase. Three of the main causes of liver disease are:

These causes of liver disease are all preventable so it's important to make sure:

Liver disease

Alcoholic liver disease is a range of conditions and associated symptoms that develop when the liver becomes damaged due to alcohol misuse. In this video, consultant hepatologist Mark Wright talks about how avoiding alcohol can help those with the condition.

Media last reviewed: 19/07/2014

Next review due: 19/07/2016

Image of the liver

The risks of drinking too much

You don't have to be an alcoholic to risk damaging your health. Regularly drinking just above recommended levels can be harmful

Page last reviewed: 06/11/2014

Next review due: 06/11/2016