Signs of Liver Damage: Read the Signals Your Body Sends

Each organ in the body is different. The liver, for example, is the
largest internal organ. Some people think of the liver as a complicated
chemical factory that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Your
liver is involved in almost every process: everything you eat,
everything you drink, even everything you rub on your skin is processed
by your liver. And those are just a small part of the liver’s functions.

The primary function of your liver, as you may know, is to process
toxins and flush them out of your body. But when large parts of the
liver become damaged, your liver fails to deliver and cannot function
properly. The good news is that there are signs of liver damage that
will warn you just in time to do something. But if you fail to recognize
these signs, liver failure is actually a life-threatening condition.

Before we go to the signs, let’s list what causes liver damage.

Causes of liver failure

There are few common causes for liver damage. Here are some that
cause the liver to fail over months, sometimes even years. It all comes
down to prolonged ignorance of the signs of liver damage:

  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Long-term alcohol consumption in large doses
  • Hemochromatosis, a disorder that causes your body to absorb too much iron
  • Malnutrition
  • Cirrhosis, as a result of excessive use of alcohol
  • There are also causes for instant / fairly quick liver failure:
  • Acetaminophen overdose
  • Ingestion of poisonous wild mushrooms
  • Reactions to certain prescriptions
  • Viruses like hepatitis A, B, and C in children

Now let’s take a look at some of the signs of liver damage that you can recognize, so you can act accordingly.

Abdominal swelling

One of the first signs you’ll notice when your liver is failing is
abdominal swelling, which points to a condition doctors call “ascites.”
Simply put, a liver malfunction causes an imbalance of proteins in your
abdomen area. As a result, fluid builds up in the tissue, and your
abdominal area swells. To know for sure whether this is a sign of a
liver damage or not, you need to look for the exact area. The area in
which you’ll notice abdominal swelling is the upper left corner, just
behind the rib cage. This area is part of the lymph system.

Abdominal pain

Swelling is just one thing you’ll notice in your abdomen when your
liver is malfunctioning. Swelling is usually accompanied by pain, which
also comes in the upper abdominal area, just under the lower ribs. The
pain feels like stabbing or throbbing, and it comes and goes. However,
if the pain is intense and constant, you should instantly check with
your doctor.

Fatigue

One of the most common and frequent symptoms of liver failure is
fatigue. The reason is simple: your liver cannot process toxins, and
your body has to work overtime. As a result, you feel tired and
exhausted. What is important to note here is that fatigue is more than
just a physical symptom. When your liver is failing, you’ll feel
mentally fatigued as well. It’s normal to be fatigued from time to time,
but if it’s constant, check with your doctor.

Unusual bruising

As mentioned previously, once your liver starts failing, it produces
fewer proteins. Most of these proteins are necessary for blood clotting,
and as a result, you bruise easily. Bleeding and bruising are among the
common visual signs of liver damage.

Being prone to bruises is a common blood disorder. And people with
liver disease or liver damage are more prone to blood disorders. With
your liver not working properly, your blood doesn’t clot properly
either. The result is a low platelet count, accompanied by easy bruising
and bleeding. If you can’t explain the origin of your bruises, the
cause might be a blood disorder linked to liver damage.

Nausea

For people with liver damage, nausea is prolonged. Every one of us
can experience a short-lived nausea episode from time to time (the
sensation of an urge to vomit). Most people are familiar with the
unpleasantness of nausea. However, when it is prolonged, it can be
devastating. Both physical and mental factors cause nausea, but in the
case of liver failure, the reason is poor liver functionality. After
fatigue, nausea is one of the first visible signs of liver damage.

Persistent vomiting

When you experience nausea, it’s only logical that you experience
vomiting as well. Even though some people don’t vomit when they’re
nauseous, nausea and vomiting go hand in hand for people with liver
damage. The reason is simple: your liver can’t eliminate toxins, and
your digestive distress increases.
That being said, if you experience persistent vomiting, it is imperative
that you visit your doctor. Spotting the signs of liver damage early is
crucial for effective treatment.

Diarrhea

Another digestive problem that occurs due to liver failure is
diarrhea. Similar to vomiting and nausea, diarrhea is among the first
visible symptoms. As said previously, the liver is responsible for
breaking down and processing what we eat, drink, and even touch. When it
isn’t functioning properly, all other systems respond negatively to
“unfavorable materials.” In the case of the digestive system, diarrhea
is a common response.

Loss of appetite

Many doctors argue that this is more of a mental condition than a
physical one. Patients with liver damage are repulsed by the idea of
eating because they know that their digestion system is not working
properly. The whole process becomes unpleasant, strained, and, quite
frankly, difficult. As a result, the brain sends signals that it is not
hungry, just so the patient can save himself from the pain, trouble, and
discomfort of eating.

Jaundice

Mostly associated with newborns, this medical condition occurs in
adults as well. As your liver fails and stops functioning properly,
waste and toxins are no longer eliminated from the body. And then
bilirubin, a bile pigment, builds up in the bloodstream. As a result,
your skin and eyes take on a yellowish color, your urine appears darker,
and your stool is lighter.
For babies, the condition can be treated by putting them under a special
lamp. However, for adults, the condition is a sign and symptom of liver
damage, and requires more severe treatment.

Personality changes

We mentioned previously that the brain also reacts to your liver
functioning improperly. One way that the brain reacts is by sending a
signal that you are not hungry. But there are more severe cognitive
issues that develop as a result of toxin buildup. Confusion and
difficulty concentrating are the first signs of toxin overload in the
brain. More severe cognitive issues are changes in sleeping habits and
forgetfulness.

Treatments for liver failure

There are different treatments depending on the severity of the liver
damage; it all comes down to your diagnosis. In some cases, liver
problems can be treated just with lifestyle modifications. However, that
applies only if the signs of liver damage are detected early; in such
cases, eliminating alcohol consumption and losing weight are two
modifications to your lifestyle that might help.
However, if the damage is worse, surgery and liver transplant are required.

Prevention of liver damage

The best cure for any disease is prevention. In the case of liver
failure and liver damage, there are a few things you can do to prevent
the situation from escalating.
Consume alcohol in moderate doses. For healthy adults, that means one
drink for women, and up to two drinks for men. Three drinks per day is
defined as heavy drinking.

Get vaccinated for hepatitis A, B, and C.

Use medications wisely. Do not put stress on your liver by consuming medications unnecessarily.

Avoid contact with blood and body fluids from other people, as hepatitis is spread through blood.

Protect your skin when using insecticides and toxic chemicals. You
might think that they are harmless if not consumed, but as we mentioned,
even toxins that touch your skin are processed by the liver.

Maintain a healthy weight.

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