Liver Disease | UC Davis Health

Liver Disease

Liver disease affects many aspects of your health. With early detection and treatment, it is possible to reverse liver damage and improve your quality of life.

Medically reviewed by Christopher Bowlus, M.D. on Aug. 17, 2023.

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Innovative Care for Better Liver Function

The hepatology team at UC Davis Health has expertise in diagnosing and treating all liver diseases. Our focus on patient care and research drives innovative treatments that improve your health.

Our Difference

Advanced Treatment Options

Our specialists take part in many clinical research studies. This research gives you access to the most advanced liver disease treatments available.

Team Approach to Care

For complex conditions like liver cancer, our hepatology team works with other specialists on a holistic treatment plan. We also work with the transplant team for patients with advanced liver disease.

Patient-Centered Medicine

We put you and your family first. Our liver care experts offer guidance on your condition and a full range of treatment options. We design your care plan to make your life easier.


What Is Liver Disease?

Your liver is the biggest internal organ in your body. It has many important functions for your health. These include converting food to energy and removing toxins and waste.

Liver disease refers to any condition that damages your liver or affects the way it functions. If left untreated, it can lead to liver failure, when your liver can no longer do its job. Early detection and treatment of liver disease can prevent complications related to advanced liver disease.

Problems with your liver function can cause health complications in other parts of your body.

The most common causes of liver disease include alcohol, obesity, and viral hepatitis.

Complications of Liver Disease


Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) can cause fluid to collect in your abdomen (ascites). You may also develop swelling in your ankles or legs (edema).


All causes of liver disease can lead to scarring in the liver. Cirrhosis is when the liver is so scarred it becomes nodular (lumpy) and no longer functions normally.

Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE)

Liver disease can cause a brain disorder called hepatic encephalopathy. When your liver is unable to remove toxins absorbed from your intestines, the toxins build up in your body. They can travel to your brain and impair your brain function.

Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC)

Anyone with cirrhosis is at risk of developing liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma. Surveillance for HCC is vital because when detected early, this type of cancer can be successfully treated.

Hepatorenal Syndrome (HRS)

HRS is a serious condition that decreases blood flow to your kidneys and can lead to kidney failure.


Causes of Liver Damage and Disease

There are many types of liver disease. A wide range of conditions and risk factors can damage your liver.

Top causes include:

Autoimmune Disorders

Some conditions like autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cholangitis and primary sclerosing cholangitis develop when your immune system mistakenly attacks your liver. This leads to liver damage.

Genetic Disorders

Liver problems can develop from an inherited gene abnormality. Genetic liver diseases include Wilson disease, hemochromatosis, and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.

Hepatitis Viruses

Viral hepatitis infections are some of the most common causes of liver disease. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C can cause chronic infections leading to inflammation and scarring in your liver.


Risk Factors

There are some risk factors for developing liver disease, including:

Alcohol Use

Alcohol is the most common cause of liver disease throughout the world. Excessive amounts can cause acute inflammation of the liver, leading to jaundice. Long-term alcohol consumption can cause cirrhosis.


Disruptions in your metabolism can cause excess fat to build up in your liver (fatty liver disease). This leads to liver damage that can look very similar to liver disease caused by alcohol. People with obesity are more likely to have fatty liver disease than the general public.

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