Facts About Liver Damage Symptoms

Damage to the liver can be an extremely serious problem that may be caused by disease, drugs or alcohol, and being aware of liver damage symptoms can help you prevent serious consequences. The liver is a very vital organ to the human body. It produces bile to help the body digest fat and purifies the blood by altering different chemicals so that they can be excreted from the body. The liver also produces clotting substances for the blood and albumin, the building blocks for protein. Any disruption in the function of the liver can drastically affect the body and may even cause death.

Many liver damage symptoms are drug induced. Drugs hurt the liver by causing disruptions in the liver’s normal functions, or by causing the liver to transform the ingredients of the drugs into harmful substances in an attempt to purify them. Drugs that may cause drug-induced liver damage include certain medications, illegal or recreational drugs, hormones or environmental toxins. Drugs affect the liver in three ways:

Idiosyncratic toxicity occurs when the liver begins to change the drug into harmful agents, or to begin to stockpile the drug in the liver into harmful amounts. It is caused by genetics.

Dose-dependent toxicity occurs when too much of the drug is taken and overwhelms the liver.

Drug Allergies cause the liver to be damaged by the body’s own immune system.

Liver damage may also be alcohol induced as alcohol creates fatty problems and scar tissue within the liver. There are also several diseases that occur from liver damage. Some of the different types of damage that the liver can display includes: increases in amounts of liver enzymes in the blood, Cholestatis (a disruption in bile flow), Necrosis (death of the liver cells), Hepatitis (inflammation of the liver cells), Stestosis (fatty deposits in the liver), blood clots, Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or several combinations of these.

Liver damage symptoms include: loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, jaundice, itching, abdominal pain, bloating of the abdomen, decreased blood clotting, dark urine, easy bruising and a lightening of the stool. While these symptoms may occur with liver damage, they also may be mild and are often caused by other problems as well. It is important for a doctor to perform CT scans, ultrasounds, blood tests and take a complete patient history including drug and alcohol use to properly diagnose liver damage.

Some of the individual symptoms that a doctor will search for each type of liver damage are discussed here. Increased levels of aspartate amino transferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) in the blood will be present in cases of Hepatitis, because these chemicals leak from a damaged liver into the blood.  Cholestatis causes problems with the liver’s bile ducts and as a result the patient’s blood will have increased levels of bilirubin and alkaline phosphate. Jaundice or a yellowing of the eyes and skin is a common and easily recognized symptom of liver damage. It presents as an increased level of bilirubin in the blood.

Cirrhosis of the liver has several symptoms of its own including edema (fluid buildup in the legs), kidney failure, ascites (fluid in the abdomen), stomach bleeding, cognitive problems and coma. Other symptoms of liver damage cause problems of themselves. Often the loss of appetite that is associated with liver damage leads to weight loss; problems with bile leakage can lead to ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and eventually total body weakness. This total body weakness makes it extremely difficult for the body to fight off infections. Bowl movement problems can also occur, and usually lightening of the stool is a clear sign of liver damage. Bowl movement problems can create problems with pain and bloating as well.

Any of the signs and symptoms listed above should be reported to a doctor even if they are generally mild during a yearly visit. Acute symptoms should be reported immediately as liver damage can lead to death. Avoidance of recreational drugs, being aware of genetic family histories, proper use of medications and alcohol avoidance are all way to help prevent the onset of liver damage symptoms.