Services > Transplantation > Types of Liver Diseases - Loma Linda University Medical Center

Liver disease

Lifestyle related

Alcoholic Liver Disease
Alcoholic hepatitis is inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), usually from long-term alcohol use that causes widespread liver damage and destruction. The effects of alcohol vary among individuals. You don't have to be an alcoholic to develop alcoholic hepatitis. Alcoholic hepatitis may also occur in moderate drinkers or after a single episode of binge drinking. Over time chronic alcohol use can lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis).

Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease also known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, refers to the liver disease that resembles alcoholic liver disease but is found in people who don't abuse alcohol. Most often, it occurs in those who are obese and who also have diabetes and elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels (also known as metabolic syndrome). This condition is occurring more frequently and estimates suggest that 30 million obese adults in the United States may have fatty liver disease and that this number may increase dramatically over the next few years.

Biliary Diseases
Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a disease where the bile ducts inside and outside the liver become inflamed and scarred, and over time the ducts become blocked. The ducts are important because they carry bile (a liquid that helps break down fats in food) out of the liver. If the ducts become blocked, bile builds up in the liver and damages liver cells. Eventually, PSC can cause liver failure and cirrhosis.

Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is a chronic liver disease that causes slow, progressive destruction and loss of bile ducts in the liver. This interferes with the ability to the to move bile out of the liver. In the early stages of the illness, the main problem is the build up of substances (like bile acids, cholesterol) in the blood, which are normally excreted into the bile and this can cause yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice) and itching. Overtime PBC can result in liver failure and cirrhosis.

Autoimmune hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver where the body's immune system attacks the liver. Autoimmune hepatitis is a chronic condition that can lead to cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver and eventually liver failure. Autoimmune hepatitis is classified as either types I or II. Type I is the most common form in North America. It occurs at any age and is more common among women than men. About half of those with type I have other autoimmune disorders, such as type 1 diabetes, proliferate glomerulonephritis, thyroiditis, Graves' disease, Sjögren's syndrome, autoimmune anemia, and ulcerative colitis. Type II autoimmune hepatitis is less common, typically affecting girls ages 2 to 14, although it is also found in some adults.

Metabolic Disorders
Hemochromatosis is an inherited disorder that causes the body to absorb and store too much iron. Healthy people usually absorb about 10 percent of the iron contained in the food they eat to meet the body's needs. People with hemochromatosis absorb more than the body needs. The body has no natural way to rid itself of excess iron, so the extra iron is stored in body tissues, especially the liver, heart, and pancreas. Without treatment, the individual will suffer from failure of these organs.

Wilson's Disease is a hereditary disease, which causes the body to retain copper. The liver of a person who has Wilson's disease does not release copper into bile as it should. Bile is a liquid produced by the liver that helps with digestion. As the intestines absorb copper from food, the copper builds up in the liver and injures liver tissue. The copper buildup also may lead to damage in the kidneys, brain, and eyes. If not treated, Wilson's disease can cause severe brain damage, liver failure, and death.

Viral hepatitis

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is one of many viruses causing inflammation of the liver. It acquired primarily through food or water contaminated by feces from an infected person. Eating raw or partially cooked shellfish (clams, oyster, or mussels) contaminated with HAV can spread the virus.

Hepatitis A is spread most often directly from person to person:

  • Anal/oral contact, by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with infected feces
  • Diaper changing tables if not cleaned properly or changed after each use
  • Fecal contamination of food and water
  • Food handlers who are infected can pass on the virus if they do not wash their hands with soap and water after having a bowel movement.


  • Hepatitis A vaccine
  • Avoiding tap water when traveling internationally and practicing good hygiene and sanitation.

Hepatitis B is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver, which can lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). It can be acquired through contact with infected blood and body fluids and from mother to newborn.


  • Sexual contact with an infected person
  • Contact with infected body fluids and contaminated needles, including tattoo/body piercing instruments
  • Infected mother to newborn at the time of delivery


  • Hepatitis B vaccine
  • Avoidance of contaminated tattoo or body piercing equipment or ink
  • Safe sex precautions
  • Avoidance of intravenous drug use or cocaine use

Hepatitis C