Liver damage is a silent killer. Cirrhosis, liver failure, liver cancer and liver disease kill thousands of Americans every year; but the causes of these dangerous illnesses are not very well known among the general public. There are quite a number of organizations that raise awareness of these sometimes fatal illnesses and their symptoms - the American Liver Foundation, AASLD, Dr. Josh Axe, to name a few - but for a lot of people the signs of liver damage may not be immediately evident.
Do I Have Signs of Liver Damage?
Because the common signs of liver damage can be so tough to identify. The signs and symptoms of liver damage are often a combination of one or more factors.
So, what are the common signs of liver damage?
1. Swollen Abdomen
A heavily swollen abdomen (ascites) is one of the early signs of liver damage and should always be investigated by a doctor. It can almost appear like a pregnancy bump in its later phases. Ascites can be an early sign of cirrhosis, as this disease can cause a buildup of fluid around the liver, which causes the abdomen to swell as the fluid level grows.
Jaundice is one of the most well known symptoms of liver problems. This symptom is usually the most noticeable of all the signs of liver damage from alcohol. It is when the skin and the whites of the eyes take on a yellow/brown hue. This discoloration is caused by bilirubin (a bile pigment) building up in the bloodstream, as the liver is damaged and unable to remove this waste product effectively.
3. Soreness in the Right Side of the Abdomen
Any boxer will tell you about the pain that a good liver punch to the upper right hand side of the abdomen can cause. If you’re not a boxer, pain in the upper right hand side of your abdomen can be an early sign of liver issues. Patients usually describe the pain as a stabbing or throbbing ache. It might not necessarily mean liver trouble, but it must be examined by a doctor.
4. Urine Changes
A change in the color of your urine can be one of the first liver failure symptoms. If your urine is turning very dark yellow or brown, it can be a sign that your liver is not eliminating waste effectively.
5. Skin Problems
Do you have itchy flaky skin on your hands accompanied by redness, unusual skin thickness and soreness? This can be a symptom of liver damage as a damaged liver can affect the body’s flow of fluids.
6. Change in Bowel Movements
Have you experienced constipation, symptoms of IBS, or changes in the color and makeup of your stool? If so, this can be a sign of liver damage.
If you have a few of these symptoms listed accompanied by bouts of sickness and nausea, it may be a sign of liver damage or liver failure. It stems from the body’s reduced ability to process and eliminate waste from the body.
8. Changes in Appetite
Liver damage can also manifest itself as a lack of hunger. This is considered a sign of advanced liver disease, especially when combined with other symptoms on this list.
9. Swollen Ankles
This a side symptom to ascites, which causes abdominal swelling. It presents itself in retained fluid around the ankles, feet and legs. This happens when an impaired liver prevents the body’s ability to produce and circulate proteins. This causes circulatory issues in the lower extremities as gravity draws fluids downward.
10. Chronic Fatigue
Exhaustion, tiredness, and fatigue are the single most common symptoms of liver damage, but they can be associated with so many other diseases that they often go undiagnosed. Studies have indicated that the root cause of liver related chronic fatigue might be caused by changes in brain chemistry from impaired liver function.
Using these tips as a guideline, and regularly consulting your physician, will help to ensure that you detect the early signs of liver damage if they appear. And if you do find you fit the pattern of these ten signs, Get Tested!