Much like everything one might encounter in this world, the body on the whole, or more specifically, the parts of its sum, are not created equally. When a liver is working well, it cleans the blood, helps digest food and fights infection, it has the power to regenerate when it has been damaged, replacing old tissue with new cells.
Everyone from medical professionals to your average layman can testify to the importance of the human heart and its function. While on the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the appendix, which is seemingly useless, and cause more harm than good if anything. Your liver, however, is NOT one of those useless parts.
The liver is the body’s largest internal organ at roughly the size of a football and arguably one of the most important. It is located in the upper-right portion of the abdominal cavity, situated below the diaphragm and on top of the intestines, right kidney and stomach.
The best way to think about the liver is as a complicated and complex chemical factory that is open for business 24 hours a day and is heavily involved in almost everything your body processes. What you eat, drink, breath, rub on your skin is all in some way processed by your liver, and that is just some of its many hundreds of functions.
Seeing how it is so important and involved in so much, it isn’t much of a stretch to understand that due to its significance, the liver is also susceptible hundreds of different kinds of diseases can cause serious and even fatal damage.
Knowledge is power, and can often save a life, so here are 10 of the most common signs that a person is suffering from liver damage.
5 Signs Of Liver Damage
1. Turning Yellow (Jaundice)
Your skin and the whites of your eyes could turn yellow when the liver isn’t working properly, due to a buildup in the blood of a yellowish substance called bilirubin, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Jaundice occurs when the liver’s damage prevents it from processing that bilirubin. Normally, the liver breaks down the bilirubin easily, but when a liver isn’t functioning properly, it is unable to do so. Common causes of that kind of liver damage are hepatitis, cancer, drinking too much alcohol, abusing ecstasy, exposure to toxic substances and various infections.
2. Pee and Poop
Jaundice also changes the color of urine and stool, making the urine dark and the stool pale, the National Health Service explains.
The Mayo Clinic lists liver disease as an underlying cause of itchy skin, as well as kidney failure, thyroid problems, and cancer. “The itching usually affects the whole body. The skin may look otherwise normal except for the repeatedly scratched areas.”
Bruising is the result of your blood not clotting properly and as mentioned early, when a person has a low platelet count or Thrombocytopenia, this is often the result. If you begin to notice bruises or cuts on your body that you cannot easily explain or attribute to their origin, it might be prudent to make an appointment and speak to your health-care professional. People with liver damage will bruise or bleed more easily because their liver has slowed or stopped production of proteins that are necessary for blood clotting, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says. The liver actually produces several clotting factors, all of which begin to disappear in people with damage to that organ.
Edema is a fancy, medical way of characterizing a condition in which an excess of liquid collects in the various tissues and cavities of the body – or to put it simply, swelling. When this swelling or edema (for all the healthcare professionals reading) is the result of liver damage, it most commonly accumulates in the abdominal cavity, known as ascites and in the legs, also known as cirrhosis.
6. Swollen Spleen
The spleen sits in the upper left corner of your abdomen behind the rib cages and is part of the lymph system that works as a drainage network in order to combat infection. While most of us don’t think about our spleen on a daily basis (or ever, for that matter), it is still important to make a note if things aren’t working accordingly. Signs of a swollen or enlarged spleen include indigestion, weightless, pain and tenderness in the surrounding area and pain that has spread to the left shoulder.
7. Stomach Pains
This is the symptom that seems to get invited to all the parties, at least the ones in the abdomen. Very often when one organ in the abdominal area is inflamed, damaged, or diseased, it can affect the surrounding organs in many ways. Firstly, due to its lack of function as most organs in the body works with one another to perform a greater function, mainly living. Also, it due to swelling of the infected organ, it can also give the impression and sensation of pain to many of the surrounding areas.
In some cases, there just isn’t any indication that something is going wrong. The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics warns that up to half of those with a liver disease show no signs. And in the cases that mild symptoms present themselves, the most common ones “are very nonspecific and they include fatigue or excessive tiredness, lack of drive, occasionally itching.”
Once a person progresses beyond those early symptoms, the damage to the liver and the side effects become more serious. The American Liver Foundation explains people may have the blood vessels leading to their livers burst, and toxins could build up in their brains and interfere with mental function, and they could experience nausea and diarrhea.
“As liver failure progresses, the symptoms become more serious,” the foundation says. “The patient may become confused and disoriented, and extremely sleepy. There is a risk of coma and death.” At that point, a liver transplant may be the only option, so it’s important to try to identify the signs of liver damage early.