Liver is a reddish brown colored organ. It is the largest internal organ. Liver is located on the right side above the abdomen and below the diaphragm. It is a very important organ and most powerful since it performs 500 different functions. Some of the main functions are the production of proteins, fat metabolism, glucose metabolism, fights infections and purification of blood from toxins.
Liver can be damaged by infection with specific viruses, toxins and chemicals. The best quality of liver is that when small part of it is injured, it can regenerate itself. Any problem to liver leads to disturbance in liver functions which is called as liver malfunction. Liver damage can be treated in the early stage and it can return back to perform its normal functions. While in some other cases, it is difficult to treat liver damage. Hence it is necessary to know the signs and symptoms of liver damage, which if noticed early will prove to be helpful in clinical management of the condition.
11 Signs and Symptoms of Liver Damage
Mild liver damage shows non-specific signs and symptoms such as general feeling of tiredness and fatigue. As liver damage progresses, the symptoms become more serious as toxins accumulate in the body. At times, it even affects the brain and lead to mental health problems. The person becomes sleepy and experiences intense itching.
Liver damage is associated with following signs and symptoms:
Fatigue and Weakness
Tiredness is the most common symptom experienced in case of liver damage. Fatigue affects the person with hepatic problems both physically and mentally.
Loss of Appetite as a Sign of Liver Damage
Damaged liver does not function well as a result the process of digestion is affected. Often, there is indigestion and the feeling is unpleasant. This results in brain sending the signals to the body that the person is not hungry in order to save the body from taking trouble of digestion. Thus there is loss of appetite. This leads to rapid loss of weight and is an alarming symptom of liver damage.
Jaundice as a Symptom of Liver Damage
Jaundice is a medical condition where the skin, nails and white of eyes become yellow in color. It is caused due to increased levels of bilirubin (a bile pigment) in the bloodstream. Bilirubin is the byproduct of the degraded old red blood cells and is yellow in color. It is processed by the liver and is removed as a waste product through urine. When there is liver damage, bilirubin is not processed and it is not eliminated out of the body due to which it gets accumulated in the blood. Excessive levels of bilirubin (hyperbilirubinemia) cause yellowing of skin, urine becomes dark in color and stools are of pale color. In extreme cases, it causes problems to the brain. Jaundice diminishes only when the function of liver improves.
Changes in Stool as a Sign of Liver Damage
Damage to the liver causes alteration in the bowel movements. It results in constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and changes in color of the stool.
One of the most common signs of liver damage is irritated skin or itchy skin or pruritus. The surface of the skin becomes thick and itchy in appearance. This leads to unusual patches of dark and pale colored skin at different areas of the body.
Bruising as a Sign of Liver Damage
The liver either decreases or the production of blood clotting proteins stops due to liver damage. As a result, there is an increased tendency to bruise or bleed.
Low Platelet Count
Platelets are the type of blood cells which help in clotting. People with liver damage have low platelet count known as Thrombocytopenia. This affects the blood clotting process in the person who experiences easy bruising.
Nausea as a Symptom of Liver Damage
Liver damage often leads to indigestion and reflux of acids. There is diminished ability to process and remove toxins from the body. This causes stomach upset and leads to nausea and vomiting which may be persistent.
Liver Damage Causing Abdominal Swelling
Liver produces a number of important proteins. One of the functions of proteins is to maintain the osmotic balance. Liver damage leads to deficiency of the proteins. This consequently leads to excess fluid retention in the body cavities and is called as Edema. When fluid gets retained in the abdomen, it is called ascites. It results in abnormal increase in the abdomen size and appears as the abdominal swelling. Ascites is a common symptom in liver cirrhosis and is frequent in chronic cases.
Besides abdomen, there is edema of legs, ankles and feet. Diuretics are used in treating fluid retention, which lead to urination and removal of excess fluids from the body.
Abdominal Pain as a Sign of Liver Damage
Liver damage causes abdominal pain especially in the upper right abdomen or lower right side of ribs. It is a throbbing pain which becomes intermittently intense. The pain can be relieved temporarily by medicines.
Encephalopathy as a Sign of Liver Damage
Due to liver damage, there is increase in retention of toxic substances in the blood. These substances accumulate in brain leading to decrease in its function. This condition is called hepatic encephalopathy. It leads to short-term memory loss, confusion, and loss of consciousness.
In addition, other signs and symptoms include:
The problems in fat metabolism causes roll of fat in the upper abdomen and built of fat in other parts of the body.
- Mood changes
- Bad breath
- Bad body odor
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Red palms and soles which may be itchy.
Liver is a vital organ of our body. When signs and symptoms are observed, it is important to treat damaged liver at its earliest. If left untreated it will result into serious condition called cirrhosis which ultimately will leads to liver failure. In such cases this organ cannot be repaired and transplant maybe the only option.