Liver Diseases in Children
Liver conditions are common in adults and children. Paediatric hepatologists and gastroenterologists diagnose and treat children's liver diseases. Various factors, including viral infections, inherited conditions, and damage to the liver from drugs or toxins, can cause these diseases. Parents need to work closely with their child's healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment.
Different Liver Conditions in Children
While most liver conditions found in children are similar to adults, their symptoms and treatment approaches vary. The most common liver diseases in children are:
• Acute liver failure
This is a serious and alarming condition in children and can be caused by infectious or metabolic conditions. Rapidly progressing jaundice is a classic sign of acute liver failure.
This syndrome is a rare liver condition characterised by very few bile ducts. Children born with this condition experience progressive loss of bile ducts inside the liver and the narrowing of the ducts outside the organ. As a result, bile builds up inside the liver, giving rise to jaundice. Most cases of Alagille syndrome are diagnosed in children younger than one year and must be treated immediately.
• Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency
A1AT is an inherited condition in which the liver is unable to release the alpha-1-antitrypsin protein into the blood in the required amounts. This results in A1AT deficiency and a subsequent blockage of other proteins. This causes inflammation and the breakdown of body tissues. The abnormal A1AT protein in the liver causes inflammation of the organ (hepatitis), which may progress to liver cirrhosis or permanent liver scarring and failure.
• Biliary atresia
Biliary atresia is common indication for liver transplantation. It is a condition in which there will be absence of bile ducts in the liver of newborn babies. Bile ducts are tubes that carry bile, a fluid produced by the liver, to the small intestine to help digestion. In biliary atresia, the bile ducts are absent, causing bile to build up in the liver and leading to liver damage and scarring (cirrhosis).
The cause of biliary atresia is unknown, but it is believed to be of the autoimmune origin or a congenital disability. It is often diagnosed in the first few weeks of life when a baby develops jaundice.
• Choledochal cyst
A choledochal cyst is a type of liver condition that affects the bile ducts, during which one or more of the bile ducts becomes dilated, forming a sac-like structure. These cysts may be present at the time of birth or acquired later in life.
Hepatitis is a viral liver infection that causes inflammation. There are several different types of hepatitis, with Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E being the most common in children.
Hepatitis A & E spreads through contaminated food and water. Other conditions that may occur in children include non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and liver cancer.
Signs and Symptoms of Liver Conditions in Children
Children's liver conditions can cause various symptoms, depending on the specific condition and its severity.
Some common signs and symptoms of liver disease in children include:
- Failure to thrive
- Dark urine and pale stools
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rash or bruising
Children with liver disease will not experience all these symptoms, and some may have no symptoms. Since most liver conditions show similar signs and symptoms, it is important to consult a healthcare provider for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.
How are Liver Diseases in Children Treated?
Treatment for liver diseases in children will depend on their type and severity. In some cases, liver disease may resolve on its own without treatment, while in other cases, medications or surgical procedures may be necessary to manage symptoms and prevent complications.
For some infective liver diseases like as viral hepatitis, antivirals are effective in reducing symptoms and treating the condition. Medications are also effective in treating certain inherited liver diseases in children.
In many cases, surgical procedures may be necessary to treat liver disease in children. For example, surgery may be used to remove the damaged bile ducts and create new ones using a piece of the small intestine in biliary atresia. In cases of liver failure, a liver transplant may be necessary.
Liver diseases in children usually show signs and symptoms like those seen in adults. Timely diagnosis and treatment of liver diseases in children are vital to ensure their healthy growth and development. If your child is showing liver disease or infection, visit our expert hepatologists at Gleneagles Global Health City in Perumbakkam - Sholinganallur, Chennai.
Gleneagles Global Health City at Perumbakkam, Sholinganallur, Chennai, is one of India's most renowned multi-organ transplant centres. It's also one of the top tertiary care multispeciality hospitals in the city, with path-breaking Liver, Neuro, Heart, Lung and Kidney procedures to its credit and legacy. The NABH, NABL and NABB-accredited hospital operates 200 beds. A modern CathLab, 13 operation theatres, and advanced imaging services (Trubeam STX, 16 Slice PET CT and 3 Tesla MRI) offer cutting-edge emergency and critical care management following internationally approved clinical protocols. For appointments, call 044 44777000.