Popular perception is that liver disease is caused by alcohol so therefore most people who have liver disease must be alcoholics. In reality, alcohol is only one cause of over 100 forms of liver disease. In Canada, fatty liver disease is currently the leading cause of liver disease. Although this condition can be caused by excessive drinking, it has also been directly linked to obesity.
Pediatric liver specialists in Canada see thousands of children – from infants only a few days old up to teens – who suffer from various forms of liver disease. The major causes of liver disease in children are genetics (i.e. Wilson disease, alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency, tyrosinemia), viruses (hepatitis A, B, C) and blockages in the flow of bile from the liver (i.e. biliary atresia, alagile syndrome).
The first liver transplant in Canada took place in 1970 and this procedure has saved the lives of hundreds of Canadians in the last several decades. Liver transplants are treatments of last resort, however, they are not cures. In some cases, the transplanted livers get rejected by the body – leading to the need for repeat transplants anywhere from 24 hours to many years later. In other cases, the newly transplanted liver may become infected with a virus that is still circulating in the bloodstream (i.e. hepatitis C).
Currently, hundreds of Canadians need liver transplants but there are not enough available organs. The CLF’s goal is one day to eliminate the need for transplants by finding cures for the over 100 forms of liver disease.