The liver, which is located in upper right portion of the abdomen, works to remove toxins, helps in metabolism, and produces bile that aids in the digestion process. When the liver is damaged and diseased, all these functions are compromised, which can result in serious and life-threatening conditions. The most common liver diseases are hepatitis, cirrhosis, and Gilbert’s syndrome. Hepatitis involves an inflamed liver and is commonly caused by virus. Cirrhosis is the formation of fibrous tissue in the liver, while Gilbert’s syndrome is an abnormal buildup of bilirubin, the yellowish product of the red blood cells. While some liver diseases are genetic, others are caused by long-term intake of alcohol or drugs. Especially when the liver disease is diagnosed late, prognosis is poor. So to guarantee early detection and a better prognosis, it pays to be familiar with the symptoms of liver disease. Here they are.
- Jaundice. Jaundice is the yellowing of the skin and the white parts of the eyes. It happens when there is a huge amount of bilirubin in the blood. When the skin turns into a darker yellow, the more the liver is damaged. Increased amount of bilirubin also results in malaise, excessive sleepiness, and confusion.
- Pale stools. The bile produced by the liver gives the stool its dark color. When the liver is compromised, however, the bile duct is obstructed and so produces less bile, making the stools light-colored. Gray and clay-colored stools are common among people with liver disease. Irregular bowel movement and loose stools are also apparent.
- Ascites. Fluid buildup in the abdomen causes ascites. This then results in abdomen swelling, which is painful and makes breathing quite hard.
- Loss of appetite and weight loss. Liver disease causes loss of appetite. This is primarily due to the compromised metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrate. Weight loss will then become apparent, which will eventually result in weakness and fatigue.
- Vomiting. Liver cancer commonly comes with vomiting. Especially if the digestive system is affected, vomiting blood is also possible. Liver disease, in many cases, can lead to gastric ulcer and gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Polyuria and polydipsia. Polyuria (frequent urination) and polydipsia (excessive thirst) are common symptoms of liver disease. But since they also occur in many other diseases, these two are not conclusive indications of liver disease.
- Hepatic encephalopathy. Caused by toxic buildup, hepatic encephalopathy is an end-stage symptom of liver disease. It is characterized by compromised mental functions such as confusion and forgetfulness. Hepatic encephalopathy indicates that the liver disease is very severe and may actually lead to death.
Other symptoms of liver disease are curled nails, fever, bloated feeling, headache, dizziness, sudden seizures, allergy, depression, hair loss, hypochondriac pain, red and itchy eyes, and back pain. When you demonstrate any of these symptoms, immediately consult with a doctor. While other symptoms appear abruptly, others develop progressively and may even affect other areas of the body. In many cases, liver disease can lead to cancer or, worse, death.