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December 14, 2021 | Farah Jassawalla

What Are The Physical Symptoms Of Liver Damage?

Approximately 30 million individuals in the United States suffer from some form of liver disease. More than 8,000 people received liver transplants in 2017, and a little over 17,000 are on the waiting list for liver transplants in the US. Early signs of liver damage can most commonly go unnoticed, which usually aggravates liver pain symptoms. So what are the signs of a bad liver, and how can you know if you have liver damage? Let's find out. 

The liver is the largest organ of the body and regulates chemical levels in the blood through bile production. It also takes part in several other functions such as protein production, regulation of blood clotting, building resistance against infections, processing glucose, storing vitamins and minerals, and producing albumin. 

What is Liver Damage? 

Liver damage occurs due to an illness of the liver which impedes its functions. Liver disease is the umbrella term used for several potential problems that may affect the designated functionality of the liver. Liver congestion symptoms and other severe liver tissue symptoms usually appear with a loss or deterioration in capability, typically after damage to 75% or three-quarters of a liver.

Telltale signs of liver damage:

Liver issues give rise to several symptoms, which are pretty general telltale signs. One of the most common symptoms is the skin signs of liver damage, i.e., yellowing of skin and itching. 

Other symptoms vary from person to person but may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal swelling, swelling in the legs and ankles, pain in the upper right abdomen, yellowing of the whites of the eyes, pale-colored stool, dark colored urine, tremors, loss of appetite, elevated tendency to bruise easily, an overwhelming feeling of being unwell, disorientation, confusion, sleepiness, and musty breath. 

Chronic Liver Issue Symptoms 

Aggravated and untreated acute liver symptoms pave the way for chronic liver complications and, ultimately, liver failure. Symptoms of liver failure resemble other ailments' general symptoms, which makes it quite hard to diagnose in the early stages. Some signs of chronic liver disease and failure may include blood in the stool, blood in the vomit, diarrhea, extreme disorientation, fluid accumulation in the abdomen and body extremities (arms and legs), loss of appetite, deterioration in mobility, nausea, and jaundice. 

When should you see a doctor for liver pain symptoms?

Because of a lack of specific symptoms, acute liver failure and damage usually go undetected, leading to more significant complications. Liver failure is life-threatening even in its acute or early stage and may develop rapidly in a seemingly healthy individual. 

It is essential to keep an eye out for any physical or functional changes that may occur in your body, such as yellowing of the skin, unusual change in mental state or behavior, tenderness in the upper abdomen, or a change in color of your urine or stool. Regular doctor checkups are also advisable to root out any other unnoticed symptoms that may hint at liver damage. Alpha Fetoprotein Test is one of the lab tests that measures the level of AFP in your blood. 

Causes of Liver Issues and Acute Liver Damage

Liver damage may occur due to seemingly insignificant causes, such as prescription medicines. Certain prescription medicines, including antibiotics, anticonvulsants, and specific nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can trigger acute liver failure

In addition, certain herbal supplements and treatments involving ephedra, skullcap, kawa, and pennyroyal can also do the deed. One of the most common causes of acute liver damage in the United States is the overuse of acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol. Ingesting one massive dose of this medication or continuously higher than recommended doses over several days can significantly damage the liver, causing acute liver diseases. Immediate medical attention is recommended in the case of acetaminophen overdose without waiting for the symptoms to appear. 

In time, treatment can prevent the medical conditions from worsening to chronic liver failure stage. Exposure to toxins is another significant cause of liver failure. Carbon tetrachloride, an industrial solvent used in waxes and varnishes, and certain poisonous mushrooms, like Amanita phalloides, which may seem safe to eat, are the most common toxins which trigger acute liver failure. 

Other ailments such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis E and certain viral infections such as those caused by herpes simplex virus, cytomegalovirus, and Epstein-Barr virus may also contribute to liver diseases and damage. Autoimmune and metabolic disorders (including acute fatty liver of pregnancy and Wilson's diseases) also become the causes of acute liver failure in rare cases. Cancer, vascular diseases of the liver, and even shock can impede blood circulation and cause liver damage. The causes of some acute liver disease symptoms are still unknown. 

Reducing the Risk of Liver Damage

Reducing the risk of acute liver damage is not an arduous task and only requires slight changes in diet and lifestyle. One of the foremost preventive measures is to take medicines only at their prescribed frequency at the stipulated date and time. 

Make sure your doctor is aware of all other kinds of medication you are on lest they interfere with your prescription medicines. Take up the telemedicine and electronic medical record advantages provided by SmartClinix for this purpose and get your medical records aligned seamlessly. 

Avoiding alcohol, steering clear of drugs, avoiding contact with body fluids of other individuals, getting vaccinated, and maintaining a healthy weight are some other measures you can take to take care of your liver the way it takes care of you.

Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and a healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.