LIFE 9/9

December 03, 2023

Alcohol not the only reason behind liver disease

The liver has many functions in our bodies
Photo: Centre for Disease Controls

Recently, singer Zahara was hospitalised and is reportedly fighting for her life at a hospital in Johannesburg. Her family confirmed that she was admitted to hospital and asked for privacy. Though her family has not confirmed what she is suffering from, sources close to the singer say she was admitted with liver complications.


The liver is a large organ in your body and its functions include filtering toxins from your blood. While the liver can filter toxins well, it is more vulnerable to too many toxins which can overwhelm its ability to function causing it to have complications that can also lead to failure. Liver disease is a chronic condition that does progressive damage to your liver over time. Contrary to popular belief that excessive alcohol consumption causes liver complications, there are more than 100 diseases that can cause liver issues.There has been speculation that because Zahara admitted to having a drinking problem, her health woes could be as a result of that. But that is far from the truth.


Many factors can lead to liver complications, below are some of the most common causes of liver diseases.

Excessive alcohol drinking: Heavy drinking can lead to a condition called cirrhosis, a scarring of the liver caused by long-term liver damage. The scar tissue prevents the liver from working properly. causing acute liver failure. Acute liver failure can also occur when an overdose of paracetamol is taken. 

Prescription medications: Some prescription medications, including antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications and paracetamol, can also cause acute liver failure. Only take the medication that you need and carefully follow the recommended dosage.

Viral infections: In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that hepatitis A causes approximately 1.4 million infections and approximately 7,000 deaths each year, while hepatitis E causes 20 million infections, 3.3 million symptomatic cases, and 44,000 fatalities annually. Hepatitis A, B are viral infections of the liver that can lead to acute liver failure. As much as a lot of young children have been vaccinated against these infections, a lot of adults have not.

Obesity and Type 2 diabetes: People with conditions such as obesity and diabetes may suffer from fatty liver disease. This is caused by eating excess calories and when the liver does not process and break down fats as it normally should, causing fat build-up. This can be avoided by maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet.

Toxins: Over exposure to toxins, such as industrial chemicals and carbon tetrachloride can cause acute or chronic hepatitis which can lead to acute liver failure.

Cancer: Any cancer that either begins in or spreads to your liver can cause your liver to fail.

Heat stroke: Extreme exercise or any physical activity in a hot temperature can trigger acute liver failure. To avoid this, stay hydrated during your exercise and take regular breaks.


Acute liver failure can be life-threatening and can develop quickly in an otherwise healthy person. When you experience these symptoms you are advised to seek medical attention right away: 

  • Jaundice (skin and eyeballs turning yellow)
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • A swollen tummy
  • Feeling nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion and disorientation 
  • Feeling sleepy and tired all the time

Sources: Mayo Clinic, SA Medical Journals, Cleveland Clinic 

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