Liver Diseases in Babies – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

6 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari

liver disease in babies

The liver is the second largest organ of our body. Not only its size but its responsibilities are also big. Thus, any trouble in the liver can cause serious problems in our lives. Liver diseases are common in elderly people and alcoholic people. However, liver diseases in babies are common too.

Babies can suffer from liver diseases due to various reasons, the most common being genetic and environmental causes. While some diseases can be cured with timely diagnosis and treatment, other conditions such as chronic liver diseases or autoimmune diseases may stay for life and need constant medical attention.

In This Article

What is Liver Disease?

The liver is one of the most important organs in our body. Its main job is to secrete bile to digest food to ensure energy for the body and to remove harmful toxins from the blood. It also breaks down old red blood cells and metabolizes complex food into simpler forms for the cells to absorb. It is when this vital organ fails to do its job that we call it a liver disease. The problem is, most of the time the liver does not show problems up until it is 90 percent damaged.

There can be two types of liver diseases – acute liver disease and chronic liver disease. In acute liver disease, a sudden problem occurs without any prior liver problem. However chronic liver failure occurs as a result of prolonged liver problems.

Causes of Liver Diseases in Babies

Liver Disease Babies Causes

There can be many causes of liver diseases in babies. Liver problems can occur in babies due to deficiency, injury, or disease. Some major causes of liver problems in babies are

1. Viral Infections

According to a report published in the MAG online library, in recent years cases of jaundice in babies caused by hepatitis A, B, and E have increased significantly. Newborn babies often need to be put under blue light observation to cure jaundice. Other than hepatitis, viruses like Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Herpes (HSV) can also cause liver problems.

[Read : Jaundice in Newborn Babies]

2. Genetic Inheritance

According to a report on human molecular genetics published in Oxford Academic, liver problems caused by hemochromatosis (excessive iron in the body), cystic fibrosis, and Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency pass genetically. Galactosemia, tyrosinemia, HFI, and Wilson disease are some inherited metabolic disorders that cause issues in liver functions.

3. Fatty Liver

According to a study published in Oxford Academic, the junk food diet of the mother during pregnancy and lactation period can increase the chances of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in babies and children. Fatty liver is becoming prevalent in children’s lives more and more with the introduction of junk foods in their diet too. Also, fatty liver-related problems occur mostly in kids suffering from obesity, type two diabetes, and high cholesterol levels in the blood.

3. Heart Problems

If sufficient oxygen-rich blood is not supplied to the liver due to anemia, heart failure, or blockage in blood vessels then the liver can function weirdly causing liver problems and diseases.

4. Exposure to Toxins

If the baby mistakenly eats toxins like rat poison, pesticides, insect repellents, or some sort of poisonous fruit or mushroom then liver problems can occur.

5. Bile Duct-Related Issues

Bile produced by the liver transfers to other digestive organs through the bile ducts. Any abnormality in the bile duct such as sclerosing cholangitis or bile duct inflammation and biliary atresia or blockage in the bile duct can cause liver issues in babies.

6. Liver Cancer

Though it is rare in babies, the development of cancer cells in the liver can impact its function.

Signs and Symptoms of Liver Problems in Babies

The initial symptoms of liver problems are very generic which makes them difficult to diagnose. The common initial symptoms of liver problems are

  • Abdominal pain especially in the region where the liver situated
  • Fatigue or feeling tired even after sufficient sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting

In the case of chronic liver problems, babies may experience worsening symptoms like

  • Dark urine and grey or pale stool
  • Yellowish skin and eyes along with fever in case of jaundice
  • Swollen abdomen because of fluid retention
  • Itching all over
  • Bruising or bleeding easily
  • Sleeping disorder
  • Mental disorders and confusion as the toxins produced in the body do not excrete and affect the nervous system

Diagnosing Liver Diseases in Babies

Liver disease babies diagnosis

The doctor will first ask about any previous liver problems and physically examine the baby. Then if the doctor suspects something serious, they will prescribe the following tests

1. Blood Tests

Tests are done to check for viral infections such as hepatitis, blood cell density, or iron deficiency. Blood will be drawn to check for the following components

  • Complete blood count
  • Glucose
  • Essential fatty acids
  • Vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Zinc
  • Bile Acid
  • Albumin
  • Bilirubin
  • Ammonia
  • Enzymes such as AP, ALT and AST

2. Imaging Tests

These tests help get a better glimpse of your baby’s liver and the general condition of the liver. Common imaging tests include

  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography or ERC
  • Hepatobiliary Iminodiacetic Acid or HIA
  • Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography or MRC

3. Biopsy

In a liver biopsy, the doctor or technician will extract and examine the liver tissue for the presence of cancerous cells, scarring, inflammation, and other liver-related issues.

Treatment For Liver Problems in Babies

Liver disease babies treatment

The treatment for liver problems will depend on the type of liver disease, the symptoms, and the type of damage the baby is experiencing. 

Treatment plan will aim to 

  • Aid in controlling the root cause of the disease
  • Stop additional damage
  • Treat any symptoms and complications related to the disease
  • Treat any underlying conditions causing or accompanying the disease 

The treatment plan will include

  • Medications to treat the underlying cause of the disease
  • Additional medications to cure symptoms
  • Supporting medications to fight infections

For the treatment of liver cancer following steps can be taken

  • Surgery of the liver can be done if there are chances of recovery after surgery
  • A liver transplant is an effective treatment if the cancer does not spread outside the liver
  • Radiation or chemotherapy can be used to shrink the cancerous cells or tumor to stop its growth
  • There are medicines to fight against cancer cells too

To cure fatty liver in babies you can follow treatments like

  • Reducing fat intake in your baby’s diet
  • Checking diabetes and controlling it
  • Lowering the cholesterol levels in the blood
  • Encourage the baby to do various physical activities through games
  • Helping the baby lose weight

In the case of genetic inheritance of liver problems, treatment is done according to the symptoms and severity of the disease.

With proper checkups and timely diagnosis, liver problems in babies can be treated. But in case of severe problems liver transplant may be needed as without proper functioning of this vital organ, the baby cannot survive for long. You need to maintain proper hygiene at home and teach your baby to cleanliness to avoid jaundice and other microorganism-caused diseases.

[Read : Papaya For Babies]


1. Is Liver Disease Treatable in Babies?

Yes, liver disease in babies is treatable and curable if you detect the problem. But in the case of inherited liver problems or autoimmune hepatitis treatments may not fully cure the conditions.

2. What Happens if my Baby Has Liver Disease?

In the case of liver diseases, liver cells can get damaged, scarring can occur on the liver tissues, and trapped bile and bilirubin can impact the physical as well as mental functions of the baby. Liver diseases can increase the chances of infections, bleeding disorders, and liver cancers. Without proper treatment, it can lead to liver failure which can be fatal for a baby.

3. How Can I Improve My Baby’s Liver?

To improve the health of your baby’s liver or to prevent liver-related problems in babies you need to offer them lots of juicy fruits and green vegetables once your baby is ready for solids. Avoiding a fat and high protein diet is wise especially if the baby is overweight. Citrus fruits and papaya are especially good for liver health.

Read Also: Pyloric Stenosis in Babies – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

Responses (0)

Please check a captcha

Want curated content sharply tailored for your exact stage of parenting?

Discover great local businesses around you for your kids.

Get regular updates, great recommendations and other right stuff at the right time.


Our site uses cookies to make your experience on this site even better. We hope you think that is sweet.