Liver diseases in children: Symptoms, causes and tips to prevent it


Children can be affected by a wide variety of diseases and problems related to liver. Let us discuss liver disease in children, its symptoms, warning signs and prevention tips.

Functions of liver

Liver is essential for continued growth and healthy nourishment. A balanced diet is essential for the growth and development of all children. Liver aids in digestion of food and filters out dangerous or toxic substances from the blood. It synthesizes or makes proteins that are used to construct the body’s tissues, stores and uses energy, and promotes blood clotting. When the liver is damaged, it can either stop functioning completely or only partially.

Liver conditions in children:

There are primarily two types of liver failure in children:

1. Acute liver failure

This kind of thing strikes suddenly. Liver disease can develop in kids who have never had it.

liver diseases in children
Watch out the signs of liver disease. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Here are the common causes of acute liver failure in children:

  • Virus such as herpes (HSV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV) or hepatitis A, B, and E can cause acute liver failure.
  • Galactosemia, tyrosinemia, hereditary fructose intolerance (HFI), Wilson disease (high copper in specific regions of the body), and mitochondrial diseases are among the metabolic disorders that are inherited through the family.
  • A number of cleaners or solvents, rat poison, pesticides, weed killers, and several wild mushrooms are examples of toxins. A toxic dose of paracetamol or some medications like erythromycin, and valproic acid.
  • Low blood supply to the liver, such as in heart failure, shock, or a blocked blood vessel.

Also read: Be careful! These eating habits can increase your risk of fatty liver

2. Chronic liver failure

This typically happens when a serious liver condition significantly worsens, either gradually or unexpectedly.

Here are common causes of chronic liver failure in children:

  • Chronic hepatitis, such as hepatitis C, autoimmune hepatitis, and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis are likely causes of chronic liver issues (a severe form of fatty liver disease).
  • Inherited disorders such as cystic fibrosis, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, or hemochromatosis (too much iron in the body).
  • Bile duct illnesses such as biliary atresia (incompletely or obstructed bile ducts in infants) and sclerosing cholangitis (chronic inflammation of the bile ducts).

Read the symptoms of liver disease in children:

1. The skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow due to jaundice, which is caused by extremely high blood levels of bilirubin (a bile pigment). Because bilirubin is eliminated through the kidneys, urine is often black. Inflammation, aberrant liver cells, and bile duct obstruction are all potential causes of high bilirubin levels. A substantial loss of red blood cells can occasionally cause jaundice. Babies may experience this. The initial and perhaps the sole symptom of liver illness is jaundice.

liver diseases in children
Your liver’s health is in your hands! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Although a modestly enlarged liver is typically asymptomatic, liver enlargement is typically a sign of liver disease (hepatomegaly). Stomach discomfort or feeling full, abdominal pain, or bloating are signs of a severely enlarged liver.

3. Hepatic encephalopathy is characterized by nerve system harm and a decline in brain function. This is brought on by harmful chemicals, which the liver ordinarily eliminates, accumulating in the blood. Encephalopathy symptoms include altered consciousness, altered logical thinking, personality and behaviour changes, mood swings, impaired judgement, drowsiness, confusion, slurred speech, unsteady gait, loss of consciousness, coma, and uncontrollable movement.

Also read: Monsoon spikes the risk of these 5 diseases. Know how to protect yourself

4. Absence of appetite

5. Bowel symptoms (vomiting, gray or clay-colored stools, constipation)

6. Bruising/bleeding

7. Distension of the abdomen (fluid or liver swelling)

8. Esophageal varices are dilated blood vessels within the walls of the lower part of the esophagus that are prone to bleeding. Anyone with serious liver illness may develop them. A diseased liver can cause portal hypertension. This is high blood pressure in the portal vein. Symptoms of esophageal varices may include:

  • Painless vomiting of blood
  • Black tarry or bloody stools
  • Poor weight gain
  • Handwriting changes
  • Amenorrhea in adulthood
  • Itching
  • Nail changes and features of fat-soluble vitamin deficiency including vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Signs of liver disease include:

  • Redness over palms (palmar erythema )
  • Pain in abdomen
  • Tremors
  • Spider naevi(marks over the skin)
  • Parotid swelling and red coloured stools

When it comes to nutrition for children, place special emphasis on fruits and vegetables. Every meal and snack should contain a fruit or vegetable. This food category has fiber, vitamins, and minerals that help in maintaining bowel habits.

liver diseases in children
Keep a check on your liver health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

A few measures to prevent liver diseases in children are:

  • It is very important to include fruits and vegetables in your children’s diet.
  • Children are becoming more obese, which is leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in them. In order to prevent nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in children, a nutritious diet, sensible portion control, and weight maintenance are all recommended.
  • Reduce intake of refined sugars.
  • Vaccinations against virus that can further harm the liver, such as hepatitis A and B, should be administered.
  • Liver damage can result from ingesting certain substances, herbs, or even some medications like a toxic dose of paracetamol.


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