COVID-19 and Chronic Liver Disease

More than 4 in 5 people who have symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, get only mildly sick. But if you have ongoing health issues, including liver disease, the virus may be more likely to leave you seriously ill.

Link Between COVID-19 and Your Liver

According to the CDC, some patients hospitalized for COVID-19 have had increased levels of liver enzymes — such as alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST). This means a person’s liver is at least temporarily damaged during their illness. 

Inaddition, studies indicate that people with pre-existing liver disease (chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, or related complications) who were diagnosed with COVID-19 are at higher risk of death than people without pre-existing liver disease.

Serious COVID-19

COVID-19 is still a new illness, but there are now vaccines available and everyone eligible is being encouraged to get them. 

Most people with COVID-19 symptoms get better on their own. And a sizeable number of people who catch the new coronavirus show no signs. But a small portion of people do fall severely ill or die. They may get severe lung problems, such as pneumonia and ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome). Pneumonia can swell your airways and fill your lungs with fluid. That can lead to ARDS, which makes it hard or impossible for you to breathe. Some people may need a ventilator.

Things that may raise your chances of severe COVID-19 include if you:

How to Protect Yourself

You can take these steps to help avoid COVID-19.

First, stay home as much as possible. Also, get vaccinated.  If you have a higher risk for illness, you might:

  • Ask your doctor if you should keep your medical appointments or postpone them. It might be possible to have your visit by phone or on the internet
  • Have groceries and essential supplies delivered
  • Stock up on your prescriptions or get them via mail order

You should also:

  • Avoid close contact with others, especially those who may be sick
  • Keep at least 6 feet, or two arms’ lengths, between yourself and others. That isn’t always possible, so wear a cloth face mask, too.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you touch often, such as phones, TV remotes, countertops, faucets, and light switches

If you think you might have symptoms of COVID-19, like a fever or dry cough, call your doctor.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on April 19, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: "What to Know About Liver Disease and COVID-19," “Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) People Who Need Extra Precautions – What You Can Do,” “Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report, March 31, 2020,” “Chronic Liver Disease and Cirrhosis,” “About Cloth Face Coverings.” “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, July 17, 2020.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Autoimmune hepatitis.”

The Lancet: “Liver injury in COVID-19: management and challenges.”

American Liver Foundation: “Important Information: The Coronavirus and Liver Disease.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.