Although oftentimes stereotypically linked directly to a poor diet or excessive alcohol consumption, the truth is there are over 100 different types of known liver disease that can damage the liver of those as young as infancy all the way through old age.
From severe infections to genetic disorders, liver disease is a serious medical condition that can permanently affect your overall health depending on the amount and type of damage your liver experiences.
The liver is a large organ in your body that is responsible for many things. For instance, it helps your body eliminate anything consumed that is harmful to the body, helps to digest foods, and helps to regulate your body’s energy levels.
If your liver fails to perform properly, you may start to suffer from critical health complications that may even lead to death.
Recognizing the early signs of liver damage is the key to getting a handle on your liver disease early enough to have the most positive outcome, no matter which kind you might have.
That’s why today we are determined to educate you on the 6 early signs that may indicate you have liver damage.
Being aware of these signs may help you and your Baltimore liver surgeon catch a serious liver problem early on before it progresses into something that is difficult to manage.
6 Early Signs You May Have Liver Damage
Since many people are unaware that they have any form of liver damage or disease, it is important to spread the word on what to look for before a liver issue has progressed to a grave stage.
In fact, over time an undiagnosed liver problem may lead to cirrhosis of the liver and even liver failure.
Take a look at some of the things you might want to look out for should you think you have some form of liver disease.
1. Skin Changes
Anytime your skin changes dramatically it is your body’s way of letting you know something is not quite right. Whether it be something you were exposed to on the outside (e.g. too much sun) or something you ingested, if your body’s normal balance is altered, skin changes are a great indicator that something may be wrong.
If you notice that your skin has begun to take on a yellowish hue, also known as jaundice, you might want to head to your liver doctor, and be checked out.
The reason your skin, and fingernails, turn yellow when the liver is damaged is because the toxins your liver is responsible for releasing from your body are not exiting like they should. The result is what is called bilirubin, an orange-yellow pigment that is typically released as waste from your body in the bile your liver also helps to produce.
Another important skin condition to be aware of when it comes to undiagnosed liver damage is overly sensitive and itchy skin. If you begin to feel that even touching your skin is uncomfortable after scratching it, or that it easily becomes inflamed for no apparent reason, you could have liver damage.
In addition to itchiness, those with liver damage may find that they bruise easier, excessively bleed, and even have more nosebleeds. A damaged liver will have trouble producing the required proteins needed to clot blood naturally after experiencing a cut or scrape. This results in more hemorrhaging than normal.
2. Abdominal Pain
Since your liver sits just below your rib cage, and it is the largest internal organ in your body, when it aches you are likely to notice it.
Though often confused with kidney or back pain, if you feel the pain is in the upper right hand section of your abdomen, chances are high it is your liver that is causing the issue.
The pain you experience may be dull, sharp, or waver between extreme and a slight tenderness. If you find yourself with unusual abdominal pain, go to your Baltimore liver specialist right away to rule out any possible liver damage.
As an adult, it is easy to push aside the fact that you are simply tired “all of the time.” Unfortunately, this makes noticing the kind of fatigue that is your body letting you know something is wrong, difficult to do.
If you find yourself feeling inexplicably tired or weak, this may be an early sign of liver damage. This is because your liver has to work double time to function properly due to its damage and is causing your body to become tired.
Altogether, understanding your body’s normal ques will help dramatically when it comes to distinguishing between normal sleepiness and problematic fatigue.
4. Digestive Problems
Just as identifying fatigue as an unusual symptom related to a serious disease is difficult to do, so are digestive problems often ignored by adults of all ages. However, if you have not recently had a bout of stomach flu or food poisoning, and recognize that your digestive issues are reoccurring more than normal, it is best to see your liver surgeon to make sure there is no liver damage masking itself behind an upset tummy.
Here are some of the most common digestive issues that clue you into getting your liver checked:
- Acid reflux
- Stomach pressure
- Difficulty breathing after meals
- Pale, bloody, or tar-colored stools
- Loss of appetite
5. Fluid Retention
One common symptom of early liver damage that is not to be ignored is fluid retention and swelling of the abdomen and ankles. Though severe fluid retention is normally found in those with advanced cirrhosis of the liver, if you begin to notice a slight swelling over time, it may be early enough for you and your Baltimore liver specialist to get a treatment plan underway quickly so you can fully recover.
6. Hepatic Encephalopathy
Again, though often affecting those with a more advanced liver disease, hepatic encephalopathy is not something to ignore.
This brain disorder occurs when the toxins in your liver that supposed to be filtering and excreting as waste are not doing so properly over a long period. As a result, those toxins build up in your bloodstream, flow to your brain, and affect things such as your sleep habits, moods, speech, behavior, and the ways you move.
If you notice even a slight change in any of the above behavior or mood changes it is important you get checked out before it advances too far and becomes much worse.
In the end, liver damage can begin at any stage in your life and slowly affect your body’s way of functioning without you even knowing it for years to come. If this happens, your chances of being diagnosed with an advanced stage of liver disease are more likely.
This not only makes your health decline more quickly, it makes it more difficult for your liver doctor to help you recover.
If you notice any of the above signs and feel you may be entering the early stages of liver disease, get in touch with Dr. Fraiman at the Liver and Pancreas Center in Towson, Maryland. With years of experience dealing with liver disease, an experienced staff on hand to help with your individualized treatment plan, and the dedication to give you your health back, Dr. Fraiman is the most qualified liver surgeon around.