Knowing how to recognize the symptoms of liver disease can save your life. Liver disease, if spotted early enough, can be slowed down and cured (providing the causes have been identified and are avoided in future). Eventually, your liver can fully recover by growing new healthy tissue to replace any that has been damaged, just as long as the disease has not been allowed to progress too far.
An Organ and a Gland…
Your liver is the largest internal organ (and also the largest internal gland) that you have in your body. In a healthy adult, a normal liver will weigh somewhere between 3 to 3.5 pounds and it plays a crucial role in multiple key bodily functions.
The Functions of the Liver…
The key functions of the liver are to detoxify your blood and to enhance your digestive system by creating bile, which helps to break down the fats that you consume into small pieces, making them easier for your small intestine to absorb. But that’s not all. Here is a quick summary of what your liver does for you:
- It detoxifies your blood, filtering out any harmful and unwanted substances like drugs and alcohol
- It produces bile to aid digestion
- It stores some of your body’s vitamins and iron
- It stores glucose
- It converts glucose into sugar that the body can use when the body’s sugar levels become depleted
- It processes haemoglobin, insulin, and a variety of other hormones
- It converts ammonia into urea; an essential ingredient for healthy metabolism
- It eliminates old red blood cells, which produces faecal matter which is normally brown in color. This is why when your stool is discolored (i.e. not brown) it can be an indication there is something wrong with your liver function.
You simply can’t live without it, that’s why it’s so important to be able to detect and interpret the early symptoms of liver disease.
Liver disease is also sometimes referred to as hepatic disease. When any type of hepatic disease affects up to three quarters of your liver tissue, your liver function is compromised.
The Causes of Liver Disease…
Liver disease can be brought about in a number of different ways.
- Its cells may be inflamed, as with hepatitis
- The passage of bile may become obstructed, as in cholestasis
- A build-up of cholesterol may occur
- The flow of blood to the liver can be damaged
- The tissue of the liver may be attacked and damaged by toxins
Alcohol Abuse and Cirrhosis of the Liver…
The most common cause of liver disease in North America is alcohol abuse. The final stage of liver disease, known as cirrhosis of the liver, is responsible for approximately 25,000 annual deaths in North America.
Symptoms of Liver Disease…
The most frequent and common symptoms of liver disease include:
- Bad breath
- Black circles beneath the eyes
- Bad body odor
- Brown blemishes on the skin
- Coated tongue
- Discolored stool
- Flushed facial appearance
- Inflamed palms and soles of feet
- Swollen eyeballs
- Jaundice-the yellowing of the skin which can often also be evidenced in the whites of the eyes
- Pain – which is felt in the uppermost right hand quadrant of the abdomen
- Increased tendency to perspire excessively
Some people also suffer from fatigue and weight loss.
These symptoms of liver disease relate to hepatic disease in general. But there are also many different illnesses or diseases that affect the liver, each of these has its own specific symptoms.
Gallstone symptoms include pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, vomiting, (having eaten a fatty or greasy meal), and a fever caused by an infected gallbladder.
Cirrhosis of the Liver…
As hepatic disease progresses and reaches the stage of cirrhosis, these symptoms become more common.
- A tendency to bruise more easily because your liver is no longer able to efficiently form blood clots.
- Itchiness caused by bile salts deposits in your skin.
- Enlarged male breasts brought about by upsetting the balance of hormones, particularly estradiol.
- Erectile dysfunction caused by, you guessed, it the unbalanced hormones.
- Feelings of lethargy caused by the increase of ammonia in your blood.
- Decrease in muscle mass due to a reduction in protein production.
- Swollen stomach veins caused by the strain of increased blood pressure in you abdominal area.
Your Metabolism Goes Haywire…
Another of the prime symptom of liver disease is the abnormal metabolism of fats, which can manifest itself in the following ways:
- Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while simultaneously seeing decreased levels of HDL cholesterol.
- Hypertension or blood pressure caused by your blood vessels becoming blocked by fatty deposits.
- Fatty tumors and lymphomas developing in your skin.
- Significant weight gain.
- Difficulty in losing weight.
- A slow metabolism
- Bloated stomach
Digestive System Symptoms…
- Indigestion and/or reflux
- The inability to tolerate alcohol
- The inability to tolerate fatty food
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Blood Sugar Symptoms…
- Constantly craving for sweets things
- Unstable levels of sugar in the blood, also known as hypoglycaemia
- Type II diabetes
Immune System Symptoms…
Poor liver health can also affect your immune system with these symptoms:
- Developing new allergies
- Excessive itching
- Developing skin rashes
- An increased incidence of autoimmune disease
- Developing fibromyalgia
- An increase in the incidence of viral and bacterial infections
The health of your liver, is crucial for a healthy existence. The power of the liver to heal itself from many diseases brought about by alcoholic or non-alcoholic fatty liver is quite amazing.