Liver damage is mostly caused by viral infections, our lifestyle and diet and our body’s immune system. If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of liver damage or disease, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Types of viral infections that damage the liver
The liver can be damaged by a few different viral infections. You might not show symptoms until the virus has already done a lot of damage. , You should get tested straight away if you thinkyou might have been at risk.
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can make people sick, but usually only for 1-3 weeks.
You can only get hep A from coming into contact with the sewage or poo of someone who has hep A. This can happen through contaminated food (remember the contaminated oyster scares?) or more often, in child-care settings or during food preparation in unclean kitchens, and sometimes during sexual contact.
You can be vaccinated against hep A, which is especially important for people who are travelling to countries where hep A is common. You can read more about hep A in our hepatitis ABC comparison table, near the bottom of the Hep C FAQs and ABC page.
People with hep B mostly get it during pregnancy or at birth if their mother has hep B. Most babies and children who get hep B will have it for life. It can also be transmitted through blood-to-blood contact or sexually.
Most adults who get hep B will clear it, naturally. You might not have any symptoms of hep B but it can be quietly damaging your liver. Importantly, most people can live a long and healthy life, if they have regular, 6-monthly check-ups with their doctor.
Hepatitis C is an easily cured liver infection, caused by the hepatitis C virus. The new treatments for hep C cure up to 95% of people and only take around 12 weeks. If left untreated, hep C can cause serious health problems. If you have hep C, ask your doctor about getting cured with the new treatments.
Alcohol related hepatitis
Alcohol-related hepatitis is a very common form of liver disease in Australia. As the name suggests, it is caused by excessive use of alcohol. In the early stages of alcohol related hepatitis, people may develop fatty liver disease. This stage can often be reversed if people are able to avoid drinking alcohol. Later stages of alcohol-related hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis of the liver. Click here for more information about alcohol related hepatitis…
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) happens when fat begins to build up in your liver. NAFLD can be caused by a range of conditions but it’s usually linked to being overweight or obese. If left untreated, NAFLD can lead to cirrhosis and the increased chance of other health problems (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems). In the early stages, NAFLD can often be treated with changes in diet, weight loss and regular exercise. Click here for more information about NAFLD…
Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH) is when a person’s own immune system attacks their liver. The immune system damages the liver cells. AIH is a lifelong illness, which can be treated with medication. If left untreated, AIH can lead to fibrosis and cirrhosis, and some people may need a liver transplant. It is important to diagnose and treat AIH as early as possible. Click here for more information about autoimmune hepatitis…
Lifestyle, Diet and Liver Damage
Lifestyle and diet play a big role in your liver health. Too many saturated fats, salts and processed sugars can make it harder for the liver to work as it should, which can lead to inflammation and even scarring.
There are some high risk lifestyle factors that may lead to liver damage or disease. Heavy drinking, obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol can all affect your liver health.
You can speak to your doctor, nurse or nutritionist about changes to your lifestyle and diet that can help your liver health.
Contact the Hepatitis Infoline for more information
Have questions about the causes of liver damage and disease? Get in touch with the Hepatitis Infoline and have your questions answered today. You can also browse our key services if you’d like to know more about how we can help you understand hepatitis A, B, C and your liver.
Your health is more than just about your liver. If you want other information about your health, see our Commonwealth partner HealthDirect.