Childhood Liver Diseases
Children are also affected by liver diseases as much as adults. Some of these diseases manifest in infancy stage and as they grow there are at a higher risk of developing acute liver conditions. Pediatric liver diseases include:
- Neonatal Hepatitis: Neonatal hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that occurs only in early infancy, usually between one and two months post birth.
- About 23 percent of the infants with neonatal hepatitis are infected by a virus that caused the inflammation before birth by their mother or shortly after birth. These include rubella and hepatitis A, B or C viruses.
- In the remaining 77 percent of the cases, no specific virus can be identified as the cause. The infant with neonatal hepatitis usually has jaundice that appears at one to two months of age, is not gaining weight and growing normally, and has an enlarged liver and spleen.
Childhood Liver Diseases
The infant cannot absorb vitamins for proper growth. People with neonatal hepatitis caused by rubella or cytomegalovirus are at risk of developing an infection of the brain that could lead to mental retardation or cerebral palsy. Many of these infants will also have permanent liver disease from the destruction of liver cells and the resulting scarring (cirrhosis).
Biliary Atresia: Biliary Atresia is a liver condition in which the bile ducts inside and outside the liver are scarred and blocked in infants. Bile can’t flow into the intestine, so bile builds up in the liver and damages it. The damage leads to scarring, loss of liver tissue and function, and ultimately leads to cirrhosis. This starts with a onset on jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes) after which the organ stops responding.
Liver Tumors/Hepatoblastoma: Hepatoblastoma is a rare tumor (an abnormal tissue growth) that originates in cells inside the liver. It is the most common cancerous (malignant) liver tumor in early childhood.
Most hepatoblastoma tumors begin in the right lobe of the liver further spreading onto the other lobe. Hepatoblastoma cancer cells also can spread to other areas of the body. The most common site of metastasis is the lungs in children.
Hepatoblastoma primarily affects children from infancy to about 5 years of age. Maximun number of cases appear during the first 18 months of life.
Hepatoblastoma affects white children more frequently than black children and is more common in boys than girls up to about age 5, when the gender difference disappears. It occurs more frequently in children who were born very prematurely with very low birth weights.
The choledochal cyst is a problem with the ducts (tubes). The tubes get bigger than normal (dilate) or pouches form on the tubes.
This keeps bile from flowing well, which can cause liver problems. The common bile duct connects the liver to the gallbladder and the gallbladder to the small intestine.
The gallbladder stores bile until the body needs it to digest food.
Food triggers the gallbladder to contract and squeeze bile out into the intestine. Cysts can block the flow of bile.
When bile doesn’t flow well, the bile ducts can get swollen and irritated (inflamed) or infected. This is called cholangitis. Over time, it can cause scars in the liver (cirrhosis).
Then the liver cannot work well. Children with choledochal cysts may also get an inflamed pancreas (pancreatitis).
Metabolic Liver Diseases:
Wilson’s disease This is a rare genetic disorder found in children in which large amount of copper builds up in the liver and brain.
Wilson’s disease causes liver damage,It has two stages slowly progressive or acute and very severe. It can also cause damage to nervous system and damage to brain cells, which can lead to psychiatric and neuromuscular symptoms. Wilson’s disease can be fatal, but is often very responsive to medical treatment, especially if it is diagnosed before serious illness develops.
Neonatal hemochromatosis. Neonatal hemochromatosis is a liver disease that is present in the fetus or at birth. Damage to the liver occurs during pregnancy which ultimately leads to the abnormal accumulation of iron within tissues.
Iron accumulation occurs while the fetus is developing in the womb and fetal loss late in pregnancy is common in families with a history of neonatal hemochromatosis. Growth delays within the womb (intrauterine growth deficiencies) are also common and many newborns are born prematurely.
Glycogen storage disease type I is a rare condition that changes the regular way of usage of the the body uses and stores glycogen, a form of sugar or glucose. Glycogen is a main source of energy for the body. Glycogen is stored in the liver.
When the body needs more energy, certain proteins called enzymes break down glycogen into glucose. They send the glucose out into the body. When someone has GSD, they are missing one of the enzymes that breaks down glycogen.
When an enzyme is missing, glycogen can build up in the liver. Or glycogen may not form properly. This can cause problems in the liver or muscles, or other parts of the body.GSD is passed down from parents to children (is hereditary). It is most often seen in babies or young children. But some forms of GSD may appear in adult.
Some of the common diseases which affect the liver and which are treated by liver transplantation include the following :
- Biliary Atresia
- Wilson’s Disease
- Progressive Familial Intrahepatic Cholestatis
- Neonatal hepatitis
- Glycogen storage diseases