5 Liver Symptoms to Watch Out For
By Robin Westen
“Love your liver – live longer” is an adage worth taking seriously. That’s because the liver is a vital organ. It helps us digest food, get rid of toxic substances, and absorb nutrients that our body needs for survival. Although some people are born with liver problems, others may damage their liver by being exposed to harmful chemicals, alcoholism, taking certain medications, or the after-effects of a virus like hepatitis. Unfortunately, too many people ignore the early signs of liver problems. If you have any of the following, don’t wait to see your doctor:
Changes in Your Skin's Color
When the liver isn’t properly releasing the body’s toxins, those substances begin to accumulate under the skin, causing discoloration. That’s why one of the earlier signs of possible liver problems includes sudden skin changes, specifically turning a yellowish hue. Your fingernails or the tips of the fingers might also turn yellow.
Itchy or Ultra-Sensitive Skin It could be just one area of skin that's itchy and gets even worse over time, or skin that is sensitive to the touch or becomes inflamed easily after itching. Even though keeping the skin moisturized will help alleviate any discomfort, the underlying cause should be diagnosed.
Tummy Problems Changes in the abdominal area may provide an early indication of liver trouble. This could start off as having a cramping or pain in the lower abdomen. It can quickly turn into a gassy sensation that accompanies pressure. As the liver problem gets worse, ascites (accumulation of fluid in the abdominal wall) can develop. If it’s chronic, the fluid accumulation will bring pressure to the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.
Changes in Urine or Stools Some people whose liver isn't functioning properly may notice changes when they go to the bathroom. In some cases, urine can become dark in color. There can also changes in stools. They could appear pale, bloody or tar-colored.
Exhaustion If you experience feelings of extreme weakness, tiredness or chronic fatigue, this could also be an early sign of a liver problem. It might mean your body has to work harder than it should.
About the Author
Robin Westen is ThirdAge's Medical Director. Check for her daily updates. Her latest book, co-written with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, is "V is for Vagina."