Our liver carries out hundreds of functions on a daily basis, yet we often miss the signs and symptoms that indicate it is sick. Liver disease symptoms can easily be overlooked because they can overlap with other conditions.
Liver disease is becoming a growing health problem, especially fatty liver disease, as obesity rates keep rising. Liver disease is associated with a host of complications, and although the liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself, it has a breaking point.
A sick liver impacts all aspects of well-being, so spotting liver disease symptoms early on can prevent irreversible damage.
Swollen stomach: Ascites are caused by an imbalance and a buildup of compounds and fluids in the tissues that can cause liver malfunction. Therefore, if your stomach appears swollen or if you have a potbelly, it could be the result of a liver problem.
Bruising: A sick liver produces fewer proteins that aid in blood clotting. As a result, you will find that you bruise or bleed easier.
Fatigue: If you’re always tired regardless of sleep and other factors, it could be a sign of a sick liver. Severe exhaustion could point to low blood oxygen levels and waste accumulation.
Abdominal pain: If you feel pain in the upper right portion of the abdomen—below the right rib—it could be a sign of liver cirrhosis. This pain may be sharp or throbbing, and it may come and go. It may even become so severe that you can no longer sit still.
Loss of appetite: If you notice a reduced appetite, it could be a sign of liver disease.
Yellow skin: When waste can no longer be eliminated because the liver is sick, skin appears to have a yellowish color to it. Eyes will appear yellow as well.
Vomiting: Unexplained and persistent vomiting is a sign of advanced liver problems. When your liver cannot remove waste, digestive distress increases, leading to nausea and vomiting.
Abdominal swelling: May suggest a condition called ascites whereby liver malfunction leads to an imbalance of proteins and other compounds lead to the accumulation of fluid in the tissues. This is often a signal for liver cirrhosis.
Bruising: Liver damage results in the production of fewer proteins involved in blood clotting, leading to easy bruising. Easy bruising is not exclusively seen with liver damage, however.
Fatigue and weakness: A possible result of low oxygen levels and waste product accumulation.
Loss of appetite: May be caused by feelings of nausea and a general disinterest in food, leading to eventual weight loss. There are often some early signs of liver problems.
Jaundice: Due to the inefficient clearance of a bile pigment called bilirubin. Those affected by jaundice will experience their skin, eyes, and the urine becomes noticeably yellower. The stools will also appear lighter in color.
Abdominal pain: Commonly felt in the upper right abdomen or just under the lower right ribs. May present as a throbbing or stabbing pain, that comes and goes.
Personality changes: The toxins that accumulate in the body may eventually reach the brain, leading to cognitive issues. Confusion, problems with concentration, and changes in sleep habits can be seen.
Persistent vomiting: Due to ongoing feelings of nausea leading to digestive distress.
These signs can very well overlap with other conditions, so it’s important that you get a thorough evaluation of your body as a whole in order to properly assess your liver health.
In some cases, there are no apparent presenting symptoms. According to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, up to half of those with liver disease show no signs at all, and those who do often do not recognize them as being serious.
This is commonly only in the early stages, because as liver damage progresses, the side effects become more serious. During the period of toxin accumulation, those affected begin to experience abnormalities in mental function, disorientations, and severe bouts of nausea and diarrhea. If these symptoms are not addressed right away, liver failure, coma, and death risks increase significantly. At this point, a liver transplant may be the only option left for treatment.