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Liver disease in children

Liver disease in children has many causes, some still unknown. Research continues on causes and cures.

When you hear about liver disease, you may tend to think of adults. But children can be born with or acquire liver disease as well.

According to the American Liver Foundation (ALF), these are some of the more common liver diseases in children:

Biliary atresia is the absence or closure of bile ducts between the liver and the intestines. As a result, bile becomes trapped, builds up and damages the liver. Children who have biliary atresia often need a liver transplant, according to ALF.

Galactosemia is an inherited disease. It occurs when an enzyme needed to digest milk sugar is missing. As a result, milk sugar builds up in the liver and other organs. This can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, cataracts and brain damage. Babies with galactosemia must be given an artificial formula that has no milk sugar. Continued use of regular milk may lead to death.

Wilson's disease occurs when large amounts of copper build up in the liver and other organs. The disease is inherited. It can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, brain damage and, if not treated, death. Medication can help reduce copper in the tissues. Doctors also tell people to avoid foods high in copper. These include liver, shellfish, nuts, chocolate and mushrooms.

Reye's syndrome is a rare complication of infections such as the flu and chickenpox. The disease causes fat to build up in the liver. The exact cause of the disease isn't known, but some studies have linked it to aspirin use. ALF recommends that parents do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 19 years of age unless they are specifically told to by a doctor.

Cirrhosis occurs when liver cells are damaged and replaced by scar tissue. Any extensive injury to the liver, including the diseases described above, can cause cirrhosis.

Research continues on causes and cures for these diseases, according to ALF.

Reviewed 10/30/2022

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