Liver Toxicity

Liver toxicity is the harmful effect that occurs when a toxic (poisonous) chemical is swallowed, inhaled, injected or absorbed. Toxic chemicals include therapeutic medications, traditional herbs, gas fumes, nutraceuticals, supplements, or drugs. Liver toxicity causes gradual or sudden liver damage.
It is estimated that liver toxicity accounts for between 6% and 70% of reported cases of adverse and fatal drug reactions globally. However, this figure is dose-dependent on the offending drug and the cause of liver damage.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

What exactly is your liver?

Back to top
  • The second largest organ in your body (after the skin)
  • A meaty structure that sits mainly behind the rib cage
  • Weighs approximately 1.5kg
  • Reddish brown in colour and has a rubbery texture
  • Your body’s “purification factory”
  • Normally you can’t feel it because it’s protected by the rib cage
The liver is the only organ that has a remarkable capacity to repair and regenerate itself back to its original size and restore full liver function, even after severe damage caused by disease or injury.

Liver damage can occur before symptoms appear

Back to top

Give your liver the support it needs to function optimally

Are you at risk?

Back to top

Risk factors may include:

  • Certain medications
  • Overdosing on medication, exceeding prescribed treatment dosage, or ignoring direction of use (pain killers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, codeine)
  • Use or experimentation with injectable drugs or illicit drugs
  • Pre-existing medical conditions e.g. liver disease, HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, fasting or dieting
  • Past blood transfusions
  • Sexual activity
  • Direct contact with infected persons (Hepatitis, TB)
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Occupational exposure to blood products (through accidental needle prick)
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals (polluted industrial areas, poor sanitation, sewerage contamination, infection and disease outbreaks)
  • Family history of liver disease
  • Working in or travelling to places of high endemicity without immunization (malaria)

Why your liver is important

Back to top

As your body’s “purification factory”, the liver:

  • Filters-out toxins
  • Regulates and cleanses a litre and a half of blood per minute of virtually every foreign substance entering your system
  • Makes new proteins needed to strengthen the immune system
  • Helps the body to resist and fight infection
  • Processes many of the drugs in your system

How drugs cause liver damage

Back to top
The liver recognises any foreign chemical in the body as toxic. As a result, the liver cells, called hepatocytes, start working strenuously to remove the perceived threat from your system. When the liver becomes overwhelmingly strained and overworked, it can throw your entire system off balance and can severely compromise your overall health.1
The liver is your body’s purification factory

Signs and symptoms 4, 5

Back to top

Early symptoms include generalised itching, loss of appetite, fatigue, feeling sick (nausea), diarrhoea, and feeling unwell. Early symptoms are usually overlooked, as they can be very similar to other common ailments (hangover after excessive consumption of alcohol, or biliousness and indigestion after consuming junk food).

Diagnosis and treatment

Back to top

Diagnosis includes a liver function test or blood tests to see if certain liver enzymes that circulate in the bloodstream have increased. It is critically important that you and your doctor monitor your liver enzymes regularly if you are starting or you are already taking chronic medication.




Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

For more health information

Click on the body area you want to know more about. Select a related health topic from the menu

Select a body area
Head
Chest
Abdomen
Pelvis
Legs
Feet
Mental Health
Skin
General
Infant Health
Restlessness and Teething in Babies
Restlessness and Teething in Babies
Although deemed as ‘normal’, teething may be accompanied by a fever, irritability, diarrhoea and poor sleep; amongst other things. Was this ....
Flu
Flu
There has been a steady increase in the number of flu cases reported recently. This is unusual because the flu season usually runs from March to ....
Diarrhoea
Diarrhoea
When is a runny tummy actually diarrhoea, and when to use an ....
Sinus
Sinus
Sinuses are spaces in the bones of your cheeks, your forehead and your ....