Liver Damage From Medication: Expert Explains The Impact, Signs Of Damage And Treatment

Medications, such as antibiotics and pain relievers may result in liver damage. Scroll down to learn its effects, signs, and treatment.

mn-liver-damage By Dr. Nikhil Shellagi-Best Gastro Surgeon in whitefield Bangalore

Did you know there can be significant damage to your liver due to various medications? The liver, being the largest solid organ inside the human body, helps the body to detoxify blood, aids in digestion, and assists in metabolising medications. Some medications, whether taken in normal doses or overdose, can damage the liver, a condition known as Drug-Induced Liver Injury (DILI). We spoke to Dr Nikhil Shellagi, Consultant- Surgical Gastroenterology, HPB and Liver Transplant Surgeon, Manipal Hospital, Varthur and Whitefield, who shared insights on the same.

liver-health By Dr. Nikhil Shellagi - Best Gastro Surgeon in whitefield Bangalore

According to StatPearls, DILI stands for Drug-Induced Liver Injury, a medical term used to describe liver damage caused by toxins found in medications. This condition can manifest as a temporary or long-term reaction to these toxins, which can be found in both naturally occurring and artificially manufactured compounds.

“In India, many medicines are easily available over the counter and can be obtained without a prescription. Some commonly available over-the-counter medicines, when consumed in large doses or chronically, can cause liver damage. These include pain relievers, antibiotics, and dietary supplements”, highlighted Dr Shellagi, Best Gastro Surgeon in whitefield Bangalore.

The Silent Threat: Liver Damage From Medications

medicationBy Dr. Nikhil Shellagi - Best Gastro Surgeon in whitefield Bangalore
medicationBy Dr.NikhilShellagi-Best Gastro Surgeon in whitefield Bangalore

Pain Relievers

  • Acetaminophen, when consumed in large doses or chronically, can cause liver injury. 
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), including diclofenac, aspirin, nimesulide, and naproxen, are widely used to alleviate pain, inflammation, and fever but also carry a risk of liver damage if misused, added Dr Shellagi.
  • Paracetamol is an easily available medicine over the counter. In an average healthy individual, the maximum dosage of paracetamol is up to 4 grams per day in four divided doses. It is frequently used in both intentional self-poisoning and unintentional overdoses in adults and children. The most frequent cause of severe acute liver injury is poisoning with paracetamol in Western countries.


Similarly, certain antibiotics, such as amoxicillin-clavulanate, tetracyclines, and erythromycin, can contribute to liver injury if not used appropriately.


“Moreover, herbal and dietary supplements, often perceived as natural and harmless, can induce liver damage, particularly those aimed at weight loss or bodybuilding. Green tea extract, anabolic steroids, and senna glycosides are among the most common offenders in supplement-induced liver injury”, said Dr Shellagi.

Signs Of Liver Damage

Recognising the symptoms of liver damage is crucial for timely intervention. Dr Shellagi listed its symptoms as follows:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Rashes
  • Clay-coloured stools
  • Dark urine

According to the American College of Gastroenterology, blood tests typically can detect signs of liver damage before symptoms emerge. If a medication with known potential to cause liver damage is prescribed, your doctor may advise regular blood tests after starting the medication to detect any indications of liver damage before symptoms arise.

Treatment and Prevention

“The only specific treatment for most cases of liver damage caused by taking a drug is to immediately stop the medicine and contact a medical professional for evaluation and management. Basic evaluation includes liver function tests and an abdominal scan”, added Dr Shellagi.

As the saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’; the same applies to liver care. It is always advised to consult your doctor before taking any medicines and avoid buying medicines over the counter without a prescription.

Disclaimer: This article’s original link by Dr. Nikhil Shellagi, the Best Gastro Surgeon in whitefield Bangalore

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