What is liver disease?

Your liver is an organ that sits on the right side of your body, under your ribs. It's an important organ, as it does a lot of jobs to keep your body healthy. The liver produces bile that helps you digest food. It also filters your blood and removes toxins.

Liver disease includes illnesses and conditions that make it harder for your liver to function.

Types of liver disease

Common types of liver disease can include:

  • Hepatitis – A virus that attacks the liver and causes infection.
  • Cirrhosis – A build-up of scar tissue in the liver caused by drugs, alcohol or illnesses like hepatitis.
  • Hemochromatosis – A condition where the body stores too much iron, which can damage the liver.
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – A condition where the body stores extra fat in the liver, causing scarring and other problems.

Symptoms of liver disease

While these different types of liver disease have different causes, they can share many of the same symptoms. Symptoms of liver disease can include:

  • Jaundice (the skin and the whites of the eyes look yellow)
  • Fluid or bloating in the abdomen
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness

Many other illnesses can cause the same symptoms. But if you have symptoms of liver disease, it's important to talk to your doctor right away. If you have liver disease but don't get treatment, it can lead to liver failure.

Diagnosis and testing for liver disease

In order to figure out whether liver disease is causing your symptoms, your doctor may recommend:

  • Blood tests
  • Imaging tests, like a CT scan or an MRI
  • Biopsy, which is taking a small sample of cells and looking at them under a microscope
  • Endoscopy, which involves inserting a tiny tube with a camera into your throat to look through your digestive tract

These tests can help your doctor figure out if you have liver disease—and if so, what's causing it. This will help determine the best treatment for you.

Liver disease treatment options

Treatment for liver disease may involve taking medicines, avoiding alcohol and/or eating a special diet. If you have severe liver disease or liver failure and other treatments don't work, you may need a liver transplant. Talk to your doctor to find out what is causing your liver disease and which treatments are right for you.



Main Line Health gastroenterology works to resolve digestive issues and GI conditions. Find the right solution for your digestive conditions at one of our Philadelphia locations.