Liver damage is no joke. The liver plays a huge role in the body’s daily activities. It acts as a filter, helping the body to digest food, absorb beneficial nutrients, and eliminate harmful toxins. Long story short: a person cannot live without their liver.
Liver damage can be hereditary or something that develops from harmful habits. It can also develop into a long-term disease that may even lead to death. So, it’s crucial to understand the warning signs of liver damage.
1. Swollen Abdomen
Liver malfunction can lead to an imbalance of compounds and proteins and cause a buildup of fluid in the abdomen. This is known as ascites. Ascites can cause a person to appear pregnant. Their stomach will form into a large, extended potbelly. However, in some cases, swelling will occur in the extremities (hands, feet, and ankles) as that fluid buildup is pulled outwards.
2. Loss of Appetite
If left unaddressed, liver damage will eventually progress into liver disease. And liver disease will be accompanied with much larger and more severe symptoms. One such symptom is a significant change in appetite. Significant changes in appetite are concerning because they can lead to other dangers, such as malnutrition and extreme weight loss. It also doesn’t help that these changes in appetite are likely accompanied by nausea and vomiting, which – as mentioned earlier – are common symptoms of liver damage.
The weight loss that occurs with these changes in appetite may sound appealing to some people, but this symptom should not be taken lightly or shrugged off easily. That extreme weight loss is a warning sign that something is very wrong with the body.
A yellow hue to the skin and eyes is a relatively common symptom of liver damage. That yellowing is caused by a buildup of bilirubin (bile pigment) in the blood. Normally, the liver will filter the pigment and eliminate it as waste. But a damaged liver won’t be able to do that. So, the bilirubin will remain in the blood, causing the skin and whites of the eyes to take on a yellow hue, much like that thumbnail image you saw at the top of this article.
Jaundice can also affect other parts of the body. It can cause dark urine and light stools. It can also cause the body to become itchy. And in more severe cases, jaundice may affect brain function.
Everyone gets tired once in a while. It’s incredibly easy to shrug tiredness off as the common side effect of a busy, active, or stressful life. However, extreme fatigue or weakness may be a sign of liver damage. Liver damage can affect oxygen and waste levels. Low oxygen levels and high waste levels can both cause a person to become weak and tired.
5. Abdominal Tenderness
Abdominal tenderness is a telling symptom of liver damage. The tenderness – or even pain – will typically occur in the upper right corner of the abdomen. The sensation is usually described as a constant throbbing pain, which may only be relieved temporarily by painkillers.
However, it’s important to know that misuse of those medications may contribute to that abdominal pain as well as the liver damage as a whole, especially if alcohol is consumed simultaneously. Proper use of painkillers may relieve that abdominal pain, but it will only be temporary. The larger issue of liver damage will need to be treated more directly.
Nausea and vomiting both frequently accompany liver damage. Liver damage negatively affects a person’s ability to eliminate toxins within the body. Those toxins, along with changes in metabolism and digestion, will cause feelings of nausea. While nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of other, less harmful illnesses, such as the stomach flu, vomiting without the presence of any intestinal tract issues may indicate something much larger (i.e. liver damage).
A damaged liver will have a harder time producing the proteins necessary for blood clotting. Without proper protein production, a person may bruise much more easily. Random and easy bruising is definitely a big sign that there may be something wrong with your liver.
8. Personality Changes
When the body is unable to filter toxins out of the blood, they will eventually move to the brain, causing cognitive issues. These issues will typically manifest as confusion and concentration problems. But as that accumulation of toxins grows, these cognitive issues will become more severe. People may become forgetful or unresponsive. They may also experience dramatic changes in sleep habits, which can cause irritability, aggression, and depression.
9. Stool Changes
There’s nothing pretty about bowel movements, but they’re actually one of the easiest ways to tell that something is wrong with the body. Liver damage is no exception. If the liver is taking a beating, it will typically be evident through a person’s waste habits.
Liver damage can cause varying stool changes. It can cause constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and changes in color and form. Any or all of these symptoms may accompany liver damage and even liver disease.
10. Fluid Retention
As liver damage becomes more serious, it can cause fluid retention in other parts of the body, particularly the legs, ankles, and feet. This happens because the liver is unable to produce and circulate proteins within the body. As those circulatory issues grow, gravity will pull fluids into the lowest parts of the body.
It’s important to listen to your body. If something is wrong, the body will normally show signs. Liver damage isn’t always obvious, but any of these warning signs are a good reason to pay a visit to the doctor.