Telling Signs and Symptoms of Liver Damage - Page 13 of 15 - ActiveBeat (2022)

Telling Signs and Symptoms of Liver Damage - Page 13 of 15 - ActiveBeat (1)

Emily Lockhart

Published on March 18, 2018 Updated on November 30, 2021

Health Check Certified By: Dr. Gerald Morris

Telling Signs and Symptoms of Liver Damage - Page 13 of 15 - ActiveBeat (2)

The liver helps the body digest food, absorb nutrients, and eliminate toxic substances — we wouldn’t be able to live without this very important abdominal organ. This is why it’s so important to stay in tune with its wellness.

Leaving liver damage untreated can lead to scarring (cirrhosis), which could then lead to a life-threatening condition known as liver failure — even more reason to take care of it. Early intervention is also key but you’ll first have to know the 15 telling signs of a damaged liver. They are…

1. Swollen Abdomen

Cirrhosis, the serious progression of liver disease, causes fluid build-up in the abdomen (a condition referred to as ascites), as levels of albumin and proteins in the blood and fluid are retained. This may actually make the patient appear pregnant. While ascites can be caused by numerous medical conditions, cirrhosis of the liver is the single most common cause. Sometimes, swelling can also take place in the ankles, as accumulated fluid is drawn down into the body by the forces of gravity.

While ascites can occur in sudden onset or acute liver disease, it occurs much more frequently in chronic cases. It can be treated with diuretics and a reduced sodium diet, and in severe cases, the fluid can be drained through a needle inserted into the stomach. However, ascites may not respond to frontlinetreatments, and if not, more drastic measures, such the insertion of a shunt or a liver transplant, may be necessary.

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2. Jaundice

Discolored skin and eyes that take on a yellowish hue is symptomatic of liver damage. This yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes results as bilirubin (a bile pigment) builds up in the blood and is unable to be eliminated as waste from the body. Jaundice also causes dark-colored urine and light-colored stools, and the high bilirubin levels can also trigger difficult-to-relieve full-body itching. In extremely severe cases, jaundice can also cause a loss of brain function. In older patients, this is often misdiagnosed as a dementia-related disorder.

Treating liver disease-related jaundice depends on successfully addressing the underlying medical condition. While severely damaged livers will never fully regenerate, jaundice and its related symptoms will diminish in intensity as liver function improves. However, it’s important to remember that liver disease isn’t cured when jaundice disappears; patients who recover from severe liver damage must still be very careful to maintain better health.

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3. Abdominal Tenderness

Abdominal pain, particularly in the upper right corner of the abdomen or to the lower right portion of the rib cage is a telling sign of liver damage. This pain may or may not be accompanied by swelling in the abdomen, or ascites. Patients usually characterize it as a persistent throbbing or stabbing pain that can only be temporarily relieved by medications. In fact, improper use of medications can be part of the reason you’re experiencing abdominal pain symptoms.

It’s important to remember that liver disease can be caused by long-term overuse of certain over-the-counter and prescription medications, including acetaminophen and narcotic-acetaminophen combinations. These medications may cause upset stomach as a general side effect, and their damaging attributes can be amplified if you drink alcohol while using them. The upset stomach side effects can snowball over the long term as liver damage appears. Eventually, this pain will become severe enough for patients to seek medical attention.

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4. Urine Changes

Urine may become dark yellow in color due to increased levels of bilirubin in the body’s bloodstream, which the damaged liver is unable to eliminate via excretion through the kidneys. Bilirubin is a bodily fluid that is produced through the natural breakdown of bile, and is normally eliminated through bile and urine. It is believed to function as a cellular-level antioxidant, but excessive amounts can lead to toxicity. Uncontrolled reflexes and eye movements, seizures, and neurological impairments can all result from chronically high bilirubin levels.

Dark urine can be caused by many different factors, and it isn’t something to be alarmed about if it does not occur on a continuous basis. Dehydration, gallstones, infections of the bile duct, and enzyme deficiencies can all cause changes in the color and composition of urine. If your urine is persistently dark yellow or brown in color, or if it is unusually malodorous and pungent, you should visit your doctor for a diagnosis.

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5. Irritated Skin

Itchy skin that doesn’t seem to go away and develops into a flaky rash is another telltale sign of serious liver damage. Skin irritation results fromthe body’s lack of fluid flow, which most commonly manifests on the surface of the skin in thick, flaky, itchy patches. Liver disease can also cause other skin problems, including a generalized yellowing of the skin and mucus membranes (jaundice), reddening of the feet or hands, and changes in skin tone and color. These changes can result in unusually dark or unusually light patches of skin in localized areas.

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In some cases, patients experience the appearance of veins through the skin. If any of these symptoms appear, particularly if they are accompanied by itching, you should speak to your doctor. He or she can check for signs of liver problems by performing a few simple, painless tests.

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6. Stool Changes

Liver damage frequently causes a number of changes in bowel movements. Typically, these symptoms present in one of three ways: you may experience constipation, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or changes in the color and makeup of your stool. Any or all of these symptoms may appear in patients suffering from undetected and untreated cases of liver disease or cirrhosis.

Constipation is the impaction of bowel movements, which harden in the lower abdomen and become very difficult to pass. While constipation is something that happens from time to time, if it becomes chronic, it could signal a problem. Symptoms of IBS include alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea, abdominal pain, and a frequent, sudden, and urgent need to pass bowel movements. Finally, people with liver disease may experience changes in stool, including an unusually pale color; a thick, tar-like consistency; or the presence of blood in bowel movements.

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7. Nausea

Digestive issues, including indigestion and acid reflux, can rear their ugly heads with liver damage and even lead to vomiting attacks. In fact, unexplained and persistent vomiting is considered to be one of the definitive clues that a patient may be suffering from liver problems. When vomiting occurs without the presence of any stomach or intestinal tract issues, it is considered a serious medical problem and should be investigated thoroughly.

In patients with liver damage, persistent feelings of nausea arise from the body’s diminished ability to process and eliminate toxins as well as changes in metabolism and digestion. Many people mistake the root cause of the nausea or ignore it altogether, as it is usually not considered to be a serious medical problem. A good rule of thumb to follow is this: if you notice any persistent changes in your health, no matter how minor they may seem, see your doctor to find out what the problem is.

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8. Loss of Appetite

When liver damage is left untreated, it will progress into liver disease. If it remains undiagnosed and unmanaged for an extended period of time, increasingly serious symptoms will result.Significant changes in appetite that result in dramatic, rapid weight loss is one such symptom.This is considered to be a sign of fairly advanced liver disease,which is life-threatening in and of itself, to say nothing of themany potential health problems that can be caused by malnutrition.

Patients who have degenerated to the point of rapid, severe weight loss may not feel well enough to eat, or they may become so ill that they cannot keep food down. In such cases, doctors will administer nutrients intravenously to slowly bring the patient back tohealth. However, liver damage which has reached this point typically has a more grim prognosis, as the organ will be beyond repair and a transplant may be the patient’s only hope for recovery.

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9. Fluid Retention

Serious liver damage can also lead to fluid retention in the legs, ankles, and feet. This occurs because impaired liver function inhibits the body’s ability to produce and circulate proteins, which in turn causes circulatory issues that are localized in the legs, feet, and ankles because gravity naturally draws fluid down to the lower parts of the body. One of the characteristics of liver disease-related fluid retention is that the imprint of your fingers will remain for a few seconds if you press down on an affected area.

This fluid retention can also be caused or worsened by decreased kidney function, which often accompanies severe liver damage. In addition to the legs, feet, and ankles, fluid retention may also occur in the abdomen. In non-severe cases, these issues can be treated with diuretics that trigger urination and the elimination of excess bodily fluids. More aggressive treatments, such as surgical fluid drainage, may be necessary if diuretics fail.

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10. Exhaustion

Chronic fatigue, muscle and mental weakness, memory loss, even confusion, and eventually coma are common when a damaged liver progresses to liver failure. Researchers have noted that exhaustion and fatigue are the single most common symptoms of liver damage, and it typically has a significant and damaging impact on the patient’s quality of life. Unfortunately, the specific causes of liver disease-related fatigue and exhaustion are not fully understood.

Researchers speculate that the root cause of liver disease-related chronic fatigue may be caused by changes in brain chemistry and hormone levels that result from impaired liver function. In particular, altered levels of corticotropins, serotonin, and noradrenaline may be at the root of depleted energy levels. Researchers also note that fatigue-related symptoms are likely worsened by a general increase in the presence of toxic byproducts in the blood, which the damaged liver cannot properly eliminate.

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11. Bruising Easily

When the liver becomes damaged, it slows or entirely stops producing the proteins that are necessary for blood clotting by the platelets. As a result, affected individuals will notice that they tend to bruise or bleed more easily—a common visual sign that your liver is struggling.

Proneness to bruising may also be caused by a blood disorder, which people with liver damage or liver disease are more likely to develop. So if you notice more areas of skin discoloration appearing on your body and can’t explain how they got there, be sure to visit your doctor.

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12. Liver Encephalopathy

As mentioned earlier, confusion and memory loss may also occur when there is damage to the liver. These symptoms are actually a condition called liver encephalopathy, which occurs because the liver is unable to “filter blood normally and remove harmful substances from the bloodstream,” says

As a result, “toxins can build up and travel to the brain,” leading to the abovementioned confusion and memory loss, as well as “mood changes, impaired judgment, disorientation, sluggish speech and movement, drowsiness and coma.” If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to seek immediate medical attention, as the condition can be fatal.

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13. Excessive Sweating

Damage to the liver—whether because of toxins, disease, or a hereditary condition—means that this crucial organ has to work harder than normal to perform its regular functions. When it does this, it generates a lot of heat, and due to the liver’s size, this heat radiates out, causing the temperature of the whole body to increase.

As a result, excessive sweating tends to occur, which is the body’s way of trying to cool itself down. It is also trying to excrete as many toxins as it can through the skin, which is a duty the liver would normally perform, but is unable to do effectively due to the damage.

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14. Weight Gain and High Cholesterol

As the liver is largely responsible for burning fat and regulating metabolism, when it becomes damaged, unwanted weight gain can often occur. You’ll tend to notice this weight gain in the abdominal area, which is often referred to as a “pot belly,” or you may develop a roll of fat at the upper abdomen, which can be a sign of fatty liver.

Additionally, liver damage may also cause you to develop high cholesterol, because the organ will not produce enough “good” cholesterol, which “travels out of the liver to scavenge the unhealthy cholesterol (LDL) from the blood vessel walls,” according to As a result, there is an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes.

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15. No Symptoms

In approximately 50 percent of cases, there are no physical signs and symptoms that the liver is damaged. This may be because it is too early for onset to occur or simply because the individuals are asymptomatic, and should they experience mild symptoms, they tend to be non-specific (e.g., tiredness, lack of drive, and itching). Therefore, people often dismiss them as being caused by something else.

Unfortunately, this means they will not be prompted to seek treatment, which can lead to more serious conditions, including fibrosis, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.

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Emily Lockhart

Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.

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What are 4 warning signs of a damaged liver? ›

Tip-offs to Liver Damage
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the eyes or skin.
  • Pain and distention of the abdomen due to the release of fluid from the liver.
  • Swelling of lower legs due to fluid retention.
  • Confusion or forgetfulness. ...
  • Dark-colored urine.
  • Pale-colored stool.
  • Chronic fatigue.
  • Nausea or vomiting.

How do you know if your liver is slightly damaged? ›

If signs and symptoms of liver disease do occur, they may include: Skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice) Abdominal pain and swelling. Swelling in the legs and ankles.

What causes liver damage adults? ›

There are many types of liver disease, which can be caused by infections, inherited conditions, obesity and misuse of alcohol. Over time, liver disease may lead to scarring and more serious complications. Early treatment can help heal the damage and prevent liver failure.

What happens if liver damage? ›

Acute liver failure often causes complications, including: Excessive fluid in the brain (cerebral edema). Too much fluid causes pressure to build up in your brain, which can lead to disorientation, severe mental confusion and seizures. Bleeding and bleeding disorders.

Can you reverse liver damage? ›

A liver transplant is currently the only way to cure irreversible liver failure. A liver transplant may be considered if: you develop progressive liver failure, despite not drinking alcohol.

How long do you have to drink before liver damage? ›

Heavy alcoholics consuming at least 80 g of alcohol per day for more than 10 years will develop liver disease at a rate of nearly 100%.

Where do you itch with liver problems? ›

Itching associated with liver disease tends to be worse in the late evening and during the night. Some people may itch in one area, such as a limb, the soles of their feet, or the palms of their hands, while others experience an all-over itch.

How would you know if something is wrong with your liver? ›

As the liver becomes more severely damaged, more obvious and serious symptoms can develop, such as: yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice) swelling in the legs, ankles and feet caused by a build-up of fluid (oedema) swelling in your abdomen caused by a build-up of fluid known as ascites.

What drugs can affect your liver? ›

Prescription drugs:
  • Statins.
  • Antibiotics like amoxicillin-clavulanate or erythromycin.
  • Arthritis drugs like methotrexate or azathioprine.
  • Antifungal drugs.
  • Niacin.
  • Steroids.
  • Allopurinol for gout.
  • Antiviral drugs for HIV infection.
Jun 20, 2022

Where is liver pain located? ›

Liver pain can be felt in the upper part of the abdomen, on the right hand side. It can be a sign of a serious disease, so medical attention may be necessary. A healthy liver helps the body fight infections, cleans the blood, and plays a role in metabolism. It can also repair itself when damaged.

What is hard on your liver? ›

Too much refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup causes a fatty buildup that can lead to liver disease. Some studies show that sugar can be as damaging to the liver as alcohol, even if you're not overweight. It's one more reason to limit foods with added sugars, such as soda, pastries, and candy.

How long can you live with a damaged liver? ›

Patients with compensated chronic liver failure (without ascites, variceal bleeding, encephalopathy, or jaundice) have a median survival of 12 years. After decompensation, median survival drops to ~ 2 years.

How do you heal a damaged liver? ›

5 Lifestyle Tips For Repairing A Damaged Liver
  1. Reduce Your Drinking. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the biggest cause of liver damage – and death from liver disease – is chronic alcohol consumption. ...
  2. Eat The Right Foods. ...
  3. Cut Out Other Toxins. ...
  4. Get Active. ...
  5. Be Mindful Of Medications.
May 7, 2020

Can your liver repair itself? ›

The liver is very resilient and capable of regenerating itself. Each time your liver filters alcohol, some of the liver cells die. The liver can develop new cells, but prolonged alcohol misuse (drinking too much) over many years can reduce its ability to regenerate.

How do you feel if your liver is swollen? ›

In some severe cases, you might notice a feeling of bloating or fullness in your belly, or an ache in your upper right abdomen, where your liver is. It's more likely your healthcare provider will discover it during an exam. They might notice that your liver is palpable to the touch, which it normally wouldn't be.

Are eggs good for your liver? ›

Egg whites are good for your liver, but over-consumption can lead to digestion issues and the yellow yolk is a source of bad cholesterol. These are the foods that are bad for the kidneys and liver.

What are the 3 signs of a fatty liver? ›

  • Abdominal swelling (ascites)
  • Enlarged blood vessels just beneath the skin's surface.
  • Enlarged spleen.
  • Red palms.
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
Sep 22, 2021

How much alcohol do you have to drink to get cirrhosis? ›

In men, risks for the condition typically appear when habitual daily alcohol consumption meets or exceeds a threshold of roughly 40 grams. This is the equivalent of: Two to eight 12-oz servings of beer (depending on alcohol content) Three to six shots of distilled liquor (depending on alcohol content or proof), and.

How much alcohol do you have to drink to damage your liver? ›

It is estimated that alcohol-related fatty liver disease develops in 90% of people who drink more than 40g of alcohol (or four units) per day. That's roughly the equivalent of two medium (175ml) glasses of 12% ABV wine, or less than two pints of regular strength (4% ABV) beer.

What alcohol is most damaging to the liver? ›

Long-term heavy alco- hol use is the most prevalent single cause of illness and death from liver disease in the United States (National Center for Health Statistics 1994). The liver is particularly susceptible to alcohol-related injury because it is the primary site of alcohol metabolism.

What does a liver rash look like? ›

People may have a reddish purple rash of tiny dots or larger splotches, caused by bleeding from small blood vessels in the skin. If the liver function has been impaired for a long time, people may itch all over, and small yellow bumps of fat can be deposited in the skin or eyelids.

What substance is the most common cause of toxic damage in the liver? ›

Alcohol. Heavy drinking over many years can lead to alcoholic hepatitis — inflammation in the liver due to alcohol, which can lead to liver failure.

How can I detox my liver in 3 days? ›

The 3-day detox juice cleanse involves consuming only blended juices and water for 3 days.
In general, the following steps are taken in a specific order:
  1. Morning detox tea.
  2. Breakfast drink.
  3. Supplements.
  4. Lunch drink.
  5. Supplements (multivitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics)
  6. Snack drink.
  7. Dinner drink.
  8. Detox ultra-bath.
Mar 8, 2022

Is coffee good for your liver? ›

Coffee also lowers the risk of other liver conditions including fibrosis (scar tissue that builds up within the liver) and cirrhosis. Drinking coffee can slow the progression of liver disease in some patients. Beneficial effects have been found however the coffee is prepared – filtered, instant and espresso.

How long does it take for your liver to repair? ›

The liver, however, is able to replace damaged tissue with new cells. If up to 50 to 60 percent of the liver cells may be killed within three to four days in an extreme case like a Tylenol overdose, the liver will repair completely after 30 days if no complications arise.

How do I know if its rib pain or liver pain? ›

Liver pain is felt in the upper right area of the abdomen, just below the ribs. Usually, it is a dull, vague pain though it can sometimes be quite severe and may cause a backache, according to the Cleveland Clinic (opens in new tab). Sometimes people perceive it as pain in the right shoulder.

What does stool look like with liver problems? ›

If your liver doesn't make bile normally or if the flow from the liver is blocked, your poop will look pale like the color of clay. Pale poop often happens along with yellow skin (jaundice). The extra bilirubin that makes your skin look yellow also can make your pee unusually dark.

Which pain reliever is best for liver? ›

Certain NSAIDs such as diclofenac and naproxen have been associated with hepatotoxicity. Therefore, low-dose acetaminophen (2 grams or less/day on non-consecutive days) is preferred over NSAIDs in patients with chronic liver disease.

What supplements are hard on the liver? ›

Green tea extract, anabolic steroids, and multi-ingredient nutritional supplements are among the top products that can cause liver injury, according to a review published in January 2017 in the journal Hepatology.

What prescription drugs can cause elevated liver enzymes? ›

Official answer
  • The antibiotics synthetic penicillin, ciprofloxacin and tetracycline.
  • The anti-seizure drugs carbamazepine and phenytoin and valproic acid.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • The diabetes drugs sulfonylureas and glipizide.
  • The tuberculosis drugs isoniazid, pyrazinamide and rifampin.
Mar 7, 2022

What part of the body itches with liver problems? ›

Symptoms of itching with liver disease

Itching associated with liver disease tends to be worse in the late evening and during the night. Some people may itch in one area, such as a limb, the soles of their feet, or the palms of their hands, while others experience an all-over itch.

How do I know if my liver is OK? ›

If you find yourself experiencing liver pain, it could be a sign of a more serious medical condition. The liver is an organ that filters the blood and performs other important functions in the body. Signs that your liver is not functioning properly include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice and other symptoms and signs.

Which of the following is one of the first signs of liver disease? ›

Jaundice is usually the first sign, and sometimes the only sign, of liver disease.

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