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Liver Failure: 10 Warning Signs Your Liver Is Not Functioning Properly

| Reviewed By Arya Krishnan

The liver is considered the largest of all organs in the human body. It is responsible for many important functions within your body to keep you healthy every day. For example, it cleanses the toxins and produces something called bile as a part of its digestive role. If the liver suffers from any problem, naturally, many of its functions get affected.

Essentially, from protein production and blood clotting to cholesterol, glucose and iron metabolism, there are several functions that the liver is responsible for. For this reason, you need to be aware of the early signs of liver damage and how to take care of your liver as much as you can for your overall well-being. Continue reading Liver Failure: 10 Warning Signs.

Warning Signs Of Liver Failure To Look Out For

Liver failure occurs when large parts of the liver become damaged, and the liver can no longer function properly. Liver failure and any other form of liver-related disease are life-threatening. Therefore, it requires immediate medical attention [1].

Liver failure usually occurs gradually and spans over the years. The most common causes of chronic liver failure include Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, long-term alcohol consumption, cirrhosis and malnutrition [2]. The symptoms of liver failure can be difficult to diagnose in some cases. In this article, we have listed some of the common signs of liver damage that your body is trying to say, with the medical guidance of Dr Arya Krishnan, NHS UK.

Warning signs of liver failure

1. Fatigue and overall weakness: One of the common signs of liver damage is feeling tired, nauseous and weak. This is due to an increased level of toxins in the bloodstream that can't be cleared out because the liver can't get rid of the toxins properly [3].

2. Digestion issues: If the liver is failing, you will likely develop an increase in indigestion and diarrhoea. Further, if the bile is not produced properly, you may also experience irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal bloating and gallstones. This can lead to a lack of appetite as well [4].

3. Upset stomach: Apart from an upset stomach, you are also likely to suffer from nausea. Those who suffer from liver damage often feel persistently nauseous because the liver has partially lost its ability to get rid of the toxins. This is one of the common signs of liver damage.

4. Abdominal pain: There is usually pain in the right upper quadrant of the liver rib cage, where the liver is located. So, when the liver is malfunctioning, there can be pain or tenderness in the affected area. You may also experience pain or cramping in the lower part of the abdomen. If it is especially bloated, then this could mean you have ascites and a malfunctioning liver [5].

5. Changes in urine colour: If urine colour is dark, this may be a sign of liver damage. This is due to the high bilirubin levels produced in the body. The liver cannot get rid of this, and it is excreted through the kidneys [6].

6. Changes in stool colour: Since there is not enough bile being produced due to the malfunctioning of the liver, the changes in the colour of the stool can be noted. Hence, it can become pale yellow, clay coloured or grey [7].

7. Fluid retention: This is one of the early signs of liver damage, especially in the ankles and feet. You must immediately consult a doctor in such cases. This is one of the top symptoms of liver damage [8].

8. Increase in skin itching: The skin becoming more sensitive during such cases is quite common and often leads to itching and flakes. In addition, you may also experience an increase in bruising and an increase in the visibility of veins [9].

9. Intestinal bleeding: The liver helps with clotting. Without this, it can lead to bleeding of the intestine and diarrhoea or constipation.

10. Jaundice: Jaundice is due to an increase of bilirubin in the bloodstream and the bodily tissue that would be excreted in the bile. This is one of the effects of liver damage on the body [10].

Some of the other (not so common) signs of liver damage include the following:

  • Constant and severe acid reflux
  • Mouth odour that doesn't subside after regular cleaning, with an aftertaste of bitterness
  • Getting bruised easily (coupled with abnormal bleeding)

How To Manage Liver Damage?

The treatment of liver disease and liver failure usually entails a specialist called a hepatologist. The treatment of liver failure varies depending on whether acute or chronic. Chronic liver failure can be treated with dietary and lifestyle changes, especially by reducing alcohol consumption. In addition, the doctor may recommend a liver transplant both for acute and chronic liver failure [11].

On A Final Note...

Many of your body's organs can be affected by liver failure. Acute liver failure can lead to complications such as infection, electrolyte deficiencies, and bleeding. Acute and chronic liver failure can eventually lead to death without treatment. However, with treatment, many people recover from liver failure. If you develop any symptoms of liver failure, call your doctor or visit the emergency room immediately.

Arya KrishnanEmergency Medicine
Arya Krishnan
What are 4 warning signs of a damaged liver?

The most common warning signs of the damaged liver include skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice), abdominal pain and swelling, swelling in the legs and ankles(fluid retention) and itchy skin.

What is the number one symptom of liver failure?

There is no one sign of liver failure. Still, the most common ones include fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, discomfort on your right side, just below your ribs, and diarrhoea.

How do you know if your liver is struggling?

Signs that your liver is not functioning properly include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice etc.

Story first published: Saturday, April 16, 2022, 12:10 [IST]
Read more about: liver liver failure
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