Liver disease is often stereotypically linked to alcohol or drugs, but the truth is that there are more than 100 known forms of liver disease caused by a multitude of factors.
The liver is the largest internal organ and largest gland in the human body. The liver plays a vital role in many bodily functions ranging from protein production through to blood clotting and also regulates levels of cholesterol, glucose and our iron metabolism. And by continually filtering our blood, the liver detoxifies and cleanses our bodies. With the exception of the brain it is the most complex organ, so keeping it in a good state of health is imperative. One unique and very positive point is that our livers are actually able to repair themselves, meaning that, depending on the cause of the damage and if it is spotted early, they can infact make full recoveries.
Some of the most common symptoms of liver diseases are explained below:
1. JAUNDICE: – This is the well known ‘yellowing’ of your skin. Your whole body including sometimes your fingernails and eyes take on a yellow hue. This is mainly due to the build up of ‘bilirubin’ which is a pigment in bile. Bile is made in our livers, and is essential in the digestion process. If your liver is having problems filtering the toxins that you ingest (whether through the digestive tract, the skin or the respiratory system) bilirubin will collect in the bloodstream thus turning your pallor yellowy.
2. COLOR CHANGES TO URINE AND STOOLS: Whilst color changes can be indicators of many problems within the body, it is often a key sign with liver problems. If you keep yourself well hydrated then the urine produced should always be a pale straw type color. As per jaundice however, a build-up of bilirubin can manifest itself as a much darker colour of urine. A badly working liver may also cause your stools to become pale, bloody, or even black. Know your own body and recognize changes.
3. STOMACH CRAMPING AND BLOATING: Again noticing changes is the key point. If you start getting cramping pains or pains in the abdominal area that are persistent, this could be an indication that all is not well with the liver. You may also notice constant bloating or a feeling of being gassy; this can go on to develop into ascites. Ascites is a build up of fluid within the abdomen walls, and causes excess pressure on the lungs resulting in difficulty breathing. Treatment is invasive and requires the draining of the fluid by catheter.
4. SKIN SENSITIVTY: A common symptom is hyper-sensitive skin – excessively itching or irritating to touch. Some of this can be eased by the application of moisturising cream but it will not get better without the underlying liver problem being treated.
5. ACID REFLUX: If you suffer from increasingly frequent attacks of acid reflux with indigestion, with or without vomiting, these are other warning signs that all is not well and needs investigating further.
6. DIARRHEA: Obviously this can have many things at its root cause, but if it becomes a more regular issue than it could be due to the liver malfunctioning as it is central to the body’s digestion system.
7. GENERAL FATIGUE: We are not just talking about being very tired here, but more like outright weakness and general and constant lethargy. If your liver has to over-work, this will have a knock on effect and takes its toll on your entire body. If you combine this symptom with any of the others mentioned then you should seek medical help immediately.
8. SUDDEN LOSS OF APPETITE: This may seem a vague symptom which again could be as a result of many conditions. But the key question to ask yourself is do you have any other of these warning signs? This often doesn’t appear until quite late on in the development of liver disease, so seek a medical expert’s opinion.
9. FLUID RETENTION: Commonly affecting the feet, ankles and lower legs, fluid retention shows up as swelling of the affected area. If you press your finger into the swollen area, the skin won’t bounce back immediately and an imprint of your finger will be there for a few seconds after removing the pressure.
10. GENERAL MALAISE: This is difficult to describe but we each should be in tune with our own bodies. That way we can genuinely tell the difference between a few ‘off days’ and a more general and underlying feeling of being unwell. This is because not all the toxins will be being filtered out of a diseased liver efficiently and the remaining toxins floating around our bodies can manifest in headaches, skin breakouts, dry skin or even uncharacteristic moodiness.
Keep your liver healthy by knowing your body, recognizing changes and addressing them quickly. This will give your liver the best chance of recovery and self repair.