7 Early Signs of Liver Cirrhosis

Liver cirrhosis is basically a late stage of scarring of the liver and can happen in many forms of liver diseases and conditions, such as hepatitis and chronic alcoholism. Each time your liver is injured, it tries to repair itself. In the process, scar tissue forms. As the cirrhosis progresses, more and more scar tissue forms, making it difficult for your liver to function. If not treated well in time, liver cirrhosis can lead to more severe complications, including malnutrition, kidney problems, decreased immune health, frequent infections, and sometimes even liver cancer.

So I hope you can see how crucial it is to know about liver cirrhosis before it gets worse.

Number 1. General weakness.

Our liver participates in over 500 different functions in our body. One of these functions is metabolism. But when you have liver cirrhosis, your liver may not be able to metabolize these nutrients that your body needs to keep you going. This can make you feel weak, lethargic, and tired.

Besides detoxification, our liver also plays a major role in detoxifying our blood. During this process, the liver breaks down toxic compounds so that your liver can easily filter them out of your body. But in cirrhosis, the liver’s detoxification function is compromised, causing those toxins to build up in your bloodstream. High levels of these toxins can contribute to systemic symptoms, including weakness and fatigue.

So if you often feel tired and weak despite having a good meal, then it can be an early sign of liver cirrhosis. So don’t ignore this sign and get yourself checked as soon as possible.

Number 2. Muscle Weakness.

The liver also plays a crucial role in protein synthesis, including the production of albumin and other proteins necessary for muscle health. However, in liver cirrhosis, your liver may not be able to make those proteins to make or repair your muscles. This, in turn, can make you lose muscle power and feel muscle weakness.

In worst cases, liver cirrhosis can further lead to muscle atrophy, which means you may start losing muscle mass quickly. This muscle wasting is a serious complication of cirrhosis, affecting up to 60% of liver disease patients, decreased quality of life, and increased mortality.

So if you’ve noticed that something like that is happening to you too, then contact your healthcare expert to find the underlying cause and receive proper treatment.

Number 3. Spider veins.

Spider veins occur when tiny blood vessels near the skin’s surface become dilated and look like a spider’s web or a cluster of tree branches. 

This can happen due to portal hypertension, when scarring of the liver creates resistance to blood flow, leading to increased pressure in the portal vein. The portal vein is a major blood vessel that carries blood from the digestive organs to the liver. So when the pressure in the portal vein increases, blood tries to find alternative routes to bypass the liver, leading to the development of collateral (additional) blood vessels.

And that’s when you might start noticing small, red, or bluish clusters of veins radiating from a central point, otherwise known as spider veins.

While spider veins themselves are generally harmless, they can indicate an underlying issue with the liver, such as liver cirrhosis.

So if you have spider veins or experience any other changes in your skin, it’s important to bring it to the attention of your healthcare provider.

Number 4. Itchy skin.

Note this sign of liver cirrhosis is more closely related to detoxification. A damaged liver won’t be able to detoxify the blood as efficiently as it did usually. In that case, the levels of toxic chemicals can increase in your bloodstream and may start building up below your skin. This can make you feel persistent itching inside the skin layers. Plus, these toxic compounds can also contribute to the dehydration of the skin, making itching worse.

Itchy skin in cirrhosis is often not limited to a specific area but can affect your entire body. This Itching may be even more pronounced at night, disrupting your sleep. Plus, while your skin may be itchy, you may not find any visible rash or lesions, except for the ones that you cause yourself by scratching of course.

So if this itching isn’t going away even after using a moisturizer, you must consider getting yourself checked by a doctor.

Number 5. Jaundice.

Another very common and probably the most obvious sign of liver damage or liver cirrhosis is jaundice. It shows up when your skin and especially the whites of your eyes start turning yellow. Now this can happen due to high levels of bilirubin in your bloodstream. Bilirubin is basically a yellow pigment that’s produced when your red blood cells break down.

The liver normally processes it, combines it with bile juice so that it gets excreted out of your body with poop.

But when the liver function is impaired due to hepatitis, fibrosis, or liver cirrhosis, the levels of bilirubin can increase in your body, resulting in jaundice.

And not just yellowing of skin and eyes, high levels of bilirubin can also show up in urine, making it look dark or brownish. Plus, when bilirubin gets mixed up with your stools, it gets even darker as it passes through your intestines, making your poop look pale, dark brown, or tarry.

So if you are noticing these signs of jaundice, don’t wait for them to get worse, and consult your healthcare expert as soon as possible.

Number 6. Frequent and easy bruising.

The liver doesn’t just produce proteins for muscle mass, but also the ones that make your blood sticky; well, sticky enough to make it clot as soon as you get a wound or a cut. These special types of proteins are called “clotting factors”, and one of the most essential clotting factors is fibrinogen.

Fibrinogen basically acts like a thread that binds together the platelets in your blood, forming a clot and blocking the punctured site.

Now, when your liver isn’t working properly or you have liver cirrhosis, your blood won’t have these clotting factors to begin with. This cannot just increase your risk of bleeding but can also cause blood loss even from minor cuts, wounds, or bruises, and can sometimes be life-threatening.

So if you have noticed that your wounds or minor injuries are taking too long to heal, then it may be an early sign of liver cirrhosis.

Number 7. Loss of appetite.

Loss of appetite, also known as anorexia, is a common symptom of liver cirrhosis. It is estimated to affect up to 50% of patients with cirrhosis and can contribute to malnutrition, muscle wasting, and unexplained weight loss.

It can happen due to many reasons, involving both physical and biochemical factors related to liver function.

For example, liver cirrhosis can disrupt your body’s metabolism, leading to changes in hormones like ghrelin and leptin, ones that control your appetite. These changes can suppress appetite signals and reduce your desire to eat.

It can also happen as another complication of liver disease known as ascites. In this case, extra fluids may build up in your abdomen, causing a feeling of fullness and early satiety, and making it difficult for you to eat less than you usually do.

So, if you think that you’re not interested in eating as you did before, or feel full after just eating a handful, then it can be an early sign of liver cirrhosis that you shouldn’t ignore.

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