The liver plays a key role in purifying the blood and detoxifying the body. It also produces important proteins including enzymes and hormones and impacts the functioning of every other system in the body. That makes the liver critical and any problem with it is important to address early. Liver disease can be inherited or caused by a variety of factors including viruses, alcohol, and obesity. Here are the early signs and symptoms of liver disease or problems.
Symptoms of liver problems
The reason why liver disease causes fatigue and overall weakness is yet unknown, but it remains one of the most common early signs of problems with the liver.
People with liver disease often have persistent nausea. This is likely because the liver has a decreased ability to rid the body of toxins. It may also be because of changes in metabolism and digestion. You should see a doctor if you have these symptoms for several days and don’t know why. This may also be accompanied by a loss of appetite.
Swelling in the abdomen indicates a condition called ascites. It is caused by a build-up of fluids in the abdomen because of a significant imbalance in the body protein and other compounds. The most common cause of this swelling is cirrhosis. As it worsens, the swelling spreads to the hands, feet and ankles. Cirrhosis is a degenerative liver disease that results in scarring of the liver and liver failure.
Liver disease causes digestive problems because of the key role the liver plays in digestion. The liver makes bile which takes part in the processing and absorption of nutrients. If the liver has a problem, you may experience indigestion and diarrhoea. You may also experience irritable bowel syndrome, fatty food intolerance, alcohol intolerance, bloating, constipation, and gallstones. Another digestive change that may signal liver disease is becoming increasingly gassy. You frequently suffer from a gassy sensation accompanied by stool pressure.
Skin colour changes
The skin and the whites of the eyes turn yellow when the liver is not functioning correctly. This is caused by the build-up in the blood of a yellowish substance called bilirubin. That yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes is called jaundice and it is one of the primary signs of liver disease. Jaundice in black people is diagnosed in the same way with yellowing mostly noticeable on the head and face before spreading down. Among people with a darker skin tone, the yellowing of the whites of the eyes is often more noticeable.
Easy bruising and itchy skin
When the liver function is compromised, insufficient levels of clotting proteins are produced which makes the body sensitive even to minimal impact. Persistent itchy skin is another sign of liver disease although it may be in the later stages. Itchiness is caused by an accumulation of bile products beneath the skin, creating the urge to scratch.
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Changes in urine and poop
Jaundice also changes the colour of the urine and poop. Darker urine and pale stool indicate liver disease. The urine turns to dark variants of yellow and may also become bloody or tar-coloured. The stool may have traces of blood. You should consult a doctor if you have blood in your stool.
Oedema, also known as edema or fluid retention is a sign of liver disease. It is a condition in which there is swelling caused by excess fluid accumulation in the body tissues. It can happen in the ankles, hands, feet, and thighs. If you press a finger gently into a swollen area, the imprint will stay a few seconds when it’s oedema.
Severe weight loss
Severe, unplanned weight loss may indicate liver disease. This is likely a result of the loss of appetite.
Treatment depends on the diagnosis, the specific liver disease. Some liver problems can be treated with lifestyle modifications like quitting alcohol or losing weight. Others may require medication or surgery. In the event of liver failure, a liver transplant may be required.
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