It has been estimated that about 1.5 billion people worldwide have chronic liver disease (CLD). In the U.S. alone, over 100 million people have been estimated to have some form of liver disease. Some of the most common types of liver disease are Alcohol-related Liver disease (ALD), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and Hepatitis C.
Your liver performs a lot of critical functions for your body, without you even realizing it. It acts like a filter, cleaning your blood by removing toxins and harmful substances.
It helps with digestion by producing bile, which is essential for breaking down fats in your food.
Your liver also stores glucose so that it can provide you with a steady supply of energy between meals.
And most importantly, the liver detoxifies harmful substances, including drugs and alcohol, making them less harmful or easier for your body to eliminate.
So when you have liver disease, or your liver isn’t functioning properly, all the functions that I just told you about are most likely going to be affected.
So today, let’s learn about some of the most common early and easily noticeable signs and symptoms of liver disease so that you can vigilantly take action and get yourself checked before it’s too late. Let’s begin.
Number 1. Fatigue.
To be honest, feeling tired after a hectic exercise or a long workday isn’t a bad thing and doesn’t necessarily mean you have liver disease. But if you feel tired quite often and without any obvious reason, then it could be a sign of liver disease.
As I mentioned a while ago, liver disease can affect your liver’s ability to process nutrients and convert them into energy. As a result, you may experience a shortage of energy, leading to fatigue.
Another factor at play is the accumulation of toxins. A healthy liver effectively filters out toxins, but in liver disease, this process is compromised. As toxins build up in the bloodstream, they can contribute to fatigue and a general sense of lethargy.
Number 2. Jaundice.
Now this one’s one of the most common and easily noticeable signs of liver disease.
It’s a condition where the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes turn yellow due to high levels of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is produced when red blood cells break down, and then the liver takes it from the bloodstream and excretes it into the bile. From there, it’s eliminated from the body via stools.
But when you have liver disease, like hepatitis, or liver cirrhosis, your liver won’t be able to eliminate bilirubin. This can cause bilirubin levels to rise in your blood, causing your skin and eyes to turn yellow.
So when you notice this sign, do not ignore it and get yourself checked as soon as possible.
Number 3. Dark Urine.
This sign of liver disease is again connected with jaundice. When your liver is unable to process bilirubin effectively, its levels may rise up in your bloodstream. Some of this bilirubin may be excreted through the kidneys into the urine, giving your urine a darker color.
So if you notice that your urine is consistently looking dark yellow or amber-colored, it can be an early sign of liver disease.
But do remember that it may not always be the case. Dehydration, certain medications, foods, drinks, and some other medical conditions can also affect the color of urine. So it’s best to consult with your healthcare expert to determine the actual cause and get treatment accordingly.
Number 4. Black or dark brown stools.
The liver produces bile juice, which your body needs to digest fats in your food. Bile produced by the liver is normally a greenish-yellow color. As it travels through the digestive tract, it mixes up with the food you eat and turns the stools brown during the digestion process.
In some liver diseases, such as cirrhosis or hepatitis, the liver may not function properly. This can cause bile to accumulate in the liver, causing the pressure in surrounding blood vessels to increase. This can cause the blood vessels near the food pipe and stomach to become enlarged and swollen, scientifically known as varices.
Now when these varices rupture or bleed, the blood can mix with the digestive juices and food as it moves through your gut, turning the stool black or tarry.
Number 5. Loss of appetite.
Loss of appetite is another common symptom associated with liver disease. This can be explained in many ways.
For example, as you know the liver produces bile, which is necessary for the digestion and absorption of fats. So if the liver is not functioning properly, it can lead to digestive difficulties, making eating less appealing for you.
And not just loss of appetite, the undigested food in your stomach or intestines may also contribute to the symptoms of indigestion, like abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
The liver is also involved in the metabolism of various nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. So when liver function is impaired, your body may not efficiently process and utilize these nutrients, affecting overall energy levels and appetite.
Number 6. Unexplained weight loss.
As I said a while ago, liver disease can dramatically affect the way our body digests food, especially fats. And not just digestion, our liver also plays a key role in the metabolism of proteins, carbs, and fats to produce energy and other essential compounds to keep us going.
But when you have liver disease, your liver won’t be able to do that, causing you to lose weight.
In severe cases, especially advanced stages, liver disease can contribute to muscle atrophy, a condition in which your body starts using your own muscles to make the amino acids it needs. That too, can lead to unexplained weight loss.
Number 7. Edema.
Edema is basically the scientific term for fluid retention, and that happens when extra fluid starts building up in the body’s tissues, especially hands, arms, legs, and feet.
The liver produces a protein called albumin, which helps maintain the balance of fluids in the body. In liver disease, especially in advanced stages, the production of albumin may decrease. This can result in a decrease in the oncotic pressure in blood vessels, allowing fluid to leak into surrounding tissues and cause edema.
But do remember that liver disease may not always cause edema. In fact, edema is a more common sign of kidney disease. So if you notice edema or any unusual swelling in your hands or feet, it’s best to consult your healthcare expert to find the actual cause and get appropriate treatment.
Number 8. Easy bruising or bleeding.
Our liver actually produces a special type of protein called “clotting factor”. In simple words, these clotting factors make your blood more sticky and form a clot when you get a cut or injury. One of these proteins is fibrinogen, which helps form a mesh-like structure in the blood, creating a clot to stop bleeding.
Anyhow, when your liver isn’t working properly, it won’t be able to maintain your blood’s clotting factors. This can increase your risk of bleeding even from minor cuts and wounds.
Plus, you may also notice that your wounds are taking longer than usual to heal. So if that’s the case, do not ignore this sign and get yourself checked as soon as possible.