Is Itching A Symptom Of Liver Diseases?

Liver diseases are a common topic of discussion. The first stage of identifying and diagnosing liver diseases depends mainly on the clinical symptoms.

Generally, we will focus mainly on common liver-associated symptoms like jaundice, vomiting or enlargement of the liver.

This increases the chance to overlook mild, but prominent symptoms of liver diseases like itching.

Can itching be a symptom of liver diseases? Well, there are many liver-associated health issues that can be presented as itching.

There can be cases where the conventional symptoms of liver diseases are not prominent until the disease progresses to higher stages. Watching minor symptoms, like itching, can help you to make an early diagnosis.

Is itching the sign of a liver problem is a common doubt. Here, we will discuss some of the reasons as to why itching can be related to liver diseases.

Hence, read these points to know more about the scientific facts behind it.

Bile Obstruction

Bile moves through bile ducts into your small intestine. A blockage anywhere along this pathway can affect the normal flow, resulting in an obstruction.

This will cause an increase in the circulating bile, often presented as itching or pruritus.


Liver cirrhosis will present its symptoms mainly in more advanced stages. But, itching is a common symptom that can be identified even in an early stage.

This is mainly due to cholestasis, resulting in the circulation of bile through the blood stream.


Cholestasis and associated itching is found more commonly during pregnancy. This is due to the deposition of bile salts in the skin. This can be differentiated from itching due to dry skin, by watching the area of itching.

Use Of Drugs

Use of certain drugs that can affect the liver function can also be considered as a major cause of itching.

Liver is the organ by which the major stages of the detoxification process occurs. Some drugs, generally intended for other organs, can harm the liver. In such cases, bile obstruction can lead to itching.

Formation Of Autotaxin

One recent study focussed on the formation of a protein called autotaxin. It was noted from this study that there is a possible relation between liver diseases and itching.

Now, the researchers are trying to develop medicines for liver diseases associated with itching, based on this protein.


Clinical Presentation

The site of itching can help to differentiate itching that occurs due to liver disease from other causes of itching. Itching can be felt all over the body, but will be severe on the palms and soles of the feet.

When compared to morning time, itching will be more worse during the late evening or night. No rash or other lesions will be present in this condition.


The diagnosis of liver diseases can be done by checking the clinical symptoms and history, by testing the blood parameters for liver function via a scanning process.

The concentration of bilirubin and bile salt will be a good indicator that can connect itching with liver disease.

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Read more about: liver, diseases, disorder
Story first published: Monday, February 1, 2016, 15:56 [IST]
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