Your liver is a key part of your digestive system and is responsible for many things, including cleaning toxins from the blood, processing drugs, secreting bile, helping with fat absorption, storing glucose, and producing blood-clotting proteins.
It is also quite forgiving and can regenerate cells up to a point, but repeated damage to the liver can lead to inflammation, scarring and cirrhosis. It shrinks, hardens, changes the structure of the liver and prevents it from working properly. Certain viral infections can damage the liver, such as heavy alcohol and drug use, a high-fat diet, and hepatitis.
Liver disease does not cause any symptoms until liver damage is quite advanced.
Some signs that your liver is failing include:
Fatigue and exhaustion. Doctors aren’t sure how liver damage causes fatigue, but it’s a common symptom.
Nausea (sickness). Nausea is caused by the accumulation of toxins in the blood and the liver’s ability to filter toxins.
Pale discharge. Stools are blackened by bile salts secreted by the liver. If the stool is pale in color, it may indicate a problem with the liver or other areas of the bile duct. Black tarry stools occur in chronic liver disease and require immediate medical attention as blood passes through the gastrointestinal tract.
Yellow skin or eyes (jaundice). Jaundice is caused by the accumulation of bilirubin (bile pigment) in the blood, because it cannot be processed effectively. The skin may itch for the same reason.
Spider naevi (small spider-shaped arteries that appear in clusters on the skin). A spider nevi looks like a red dot with blood vessels radiating from the center like a spider’s leg. They may be common in healthy women, but if they are found in the upper body or in greater numbers in men, they may indicate liver disease.
Bruises easily. Your liver is less able to make clotting factors, so you may bruise easily.
Redness of the palms (erythema of the sea). A quarter of people with cirrhosis develop palmar erythema – reddening of the palm skin.
Dark urine. Dark orange, amber, cola, or brown colored urine can be a sign of liver disease. This color is due to excessive accumulation of bilirubin that the liver does not break down normally.
Abdominal swelling (ascites). Ascites is caused by the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity. Also, swelling of the feet and ankles can occur due to fluid retention.