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Symptoms of Liver Problems

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What is the Liver?

The liver is an organ found in vertebrates. It detoxifies various metabolites, synthesizes proteins, and produces biochemicals necessary for digestion and growth. It is located in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, below the diaphragm in the human body. Its other roles in metabolism include the regulation of glycogen storage, decomposition of red blood cells, and the production of hormones. The liver is an accessory digestive organ that produces bile, an alkaline fluid containing cholesterol and bile acids, which helps the breakdown of fat. The gallbladder stores bile produced by the liver which is afterward moved to the small intestine to complete digestion.

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Medical Structure of the Liver

Liver Disease

Liver disease is any disruption of liver function that induces illness. The liver is accountable for numerous crucial tasks within the body and if it becomes diseased or injured, the loss of those functions can result in crucial damage to the body. It is a wide term that encircles all the potential problems that cause the liver to fail to conduct its designated tasks.

Symptoms of Liver Problems

  • Classic symptoms of the liver problem include nausea, vomiting, right upper quadrant abdominal pain, jaundice, fatigue, weakness, and weight loss.

  • Gallstones - A person with gallstones may undergo right upper abdominal pain and vomiting after consuming a greasy meal. If the gallbladder becomes infected, fever may occur.

  • Gilbert's Disease - It has no symptoms and is an incidental finding on a blood test where the bilirubin level is mildly increased.

  • Cirrhosis of the Liver - It develops advanced symptoms as the liver fails. Some symptoms are directly associated with the inability of the liver to metabolize the body's waste products. 

Common Liver Problems

  • Hepatitis- It is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver and damages it. Hepatitis is of five different types – Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.

  • Fatty Liver Disease: It refers to the addition of fat in the liver. It can be of two types – an alcoholic fatty liver disease caused by consumption of alcohol and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease caused by other factors.

  • Autoimmune Conditions: In this, the immune system accidentally attacks the healthy cells in our body.

Causes of Liver Problems

  • Cancers - Primary cancers in the liver emerge from liver structures and cells. Two examples include hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma.

  • Congestive Heart Failure - Poor heart function results in fluid and blood to back up in the huge veins of the body can result in liver swelling and inflammation.

  • Abnormalities of the opening of the bile duct into the small intestine can lead to abnormalities of bile flow. The sphincter of Oddi functions as a "valve" that permits bile to flow from the common bile duct into the intestine.

  • Abnormal Bleeding - The liver is accountable for generating blood clotting factors. Decreased liver function can cause an increased risk of bleeding in the body.

  • Protein Synthesis or Manufacture - proteins made in the liver are the building blocks for body function. Lack of protein affects many bodily functions.

Prevention of Liver Problems

  • Drink Alcohol in Moderation - Heavy or high-risk drinking is defined as more than eight drinks a week for women and more than 15 drinks a week for men.

  • Use Medications Properly - Take prescription and nonprescription drugs only when required and in recommended doses. Don't mix medications and alcohol. Speak to your doctor before mixing herbal supplements or prescription or nonprescription pills.

  • Keep Your Food Safe - Wash your hands completely before eating or making foods.

  • Nurture Your Skin - When using insecticides and other toxic chemicals, wear gloves, long sleeves, a hat, and a mask so that chemicals aren't consumed through our skin.

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight - Obesity can result in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Did You Know?

  • According to the American Liver Foundation, at least 10 percent of Americans have some form of liver disease. Further, the American Liver Foundation reports that hepatitis C, non-alcoholic fatty liver illness, and liver cancer exist with greater incidence.

  • Alcohol abuse, hepatitis viruses, and obesity are all deemed highly preventable and are the major three risk factors for death from liver disease. Other causes of liver disease include cancer, autoimmune diseases, and genetic or metabolic disorders.

  • Sadly, symptoms of many liver disorders do not manifest until serious – sometimes irreversible – the damage has occurred. A population-based study found that 69 percent of adults with cirrhosis were unaware of having liver disease. Another study found that Hispanic Americans and African Americans are at greater risk of developing liver disease than Caucasians.

  • Hispanic Americans have greater risk due to heavier drinking and higher prevalence of obesity and diabetes, while African-Americans have a higher prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and hepatitis B or C.

Last updated date: 23rd Sep 2023
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FAQs on Symptoms of Liver Problems

1. When should we call the doctor for liver disease?

The onset of liver disease is gradual and there is no specific symptom that brings the affected individual to seek medical care. Fatigue, weakness, and weight loss which cannot be clarified should provoke a visit for medical evaluation. Jaundice or yellow skin is never normal and should prompt an evaluation by a healthcare professional. Persistent fever, vomiting, and abdominal pain should also urge medical evaluation as quickly as possible. Antidotes to protect the liver can be provided, but are effective only when used within a few hours. Without this intervention, acetaminophen overdose can lead to liver failure. Symptoms only arise after a potential liver injury has arisen.

2. What are the early signs of liver problems?

Some signs of early liver damage are:

  • Irregular sleep

  • Low or fluctuating energy levels

  • Skin and eyes developing a yellowish tint

  • Skin conditions appear, such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, and itching

  • Drinking least amounts of alcohol inebriates rapidly and causes severe hangovers

  • The impact of caffeine becomes acute

  • Flushing from the trunk rising up to the head

  • Experiencing severe reactions and side effects to common medications

  • When early liver harm creeps up, the body can no longer safeguard against harmful chemicals. The body stops being able to digest food, remove impurities, filter toxins from the blood, and send nutrients where they need to go.

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