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Liver disease

There are many different types of liver disease. You can help prevent some of them by maintaining a healthy weight and staying within the recommended alcohol limits, if you drink.

Types of liver disease

Some of the most common types of liver disease include:

Common types of liver disease and the possible causes
Condition Possible causes
Alcohol-related liver disease Regularly drinking too much alcohol
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease Being very overweight (obese) – this may cause fat to build up in the liver
Hepatitis Catching a viral infection, regularly drinking too much alcohol
Haemochromatosis A gene that runs in families and may be passed from parents to children
Primary biliary cirrhosis May be caused by a problem with the immune system

Symptoms of liver disease

Most types of liver disease do not cause any symptoms in the early stages.

Once you start to get symptoms of liver disease, your liver is already damaged and scarred. This is known as cirrhosis.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

You have symptoms of liver damage (cirrhosis), such as:

Other symptoms may include itchy skin, or feeling or being sick.

Information:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during COVID-19

Information:

If you or your child has been diagnosed with liver disease, the British Liver Trust or Children's Liver Disease Foundation can also offer advice and support.

How to prevent liver disease

The 3 main causes of liver disease are:

You can reduce your risk of many types of liver disease with some simple lifestyle changes such as:

  • trying to maintain a healthy weight
  • not drinking too much alcohol

Vaccines are available for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. These are recommended if you're at risk.

Important

You do not have to drink an excessive amount of alcohol to risk damaging your health. Regularly drinking just over the recommended levels can be harmful.

Read about the risks of drinking too much

More information

Page last reviewed: 20 October 2020
Next review due: 20 October 2023