Chances are good that liver failure probably isn’t something you think about too often. It might seem like liver disease is something that only happens to older people or those who abuse alcohol; not like something that’s going to happen to you. Unfortunately, liver disease is more common than you’d think.
The silent form of liver disease can occur when someone is overweight, and is worrying to doctors because symptoms often don’t occur until permanent damage has been done, making it harder to treat and cure. This can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and death. The numbers on this mean it’s worth knowing the unexpected signs of liver failure, in case it affects you or someone close to you.
Your liver plays an incredibly important role in your body. Your liver basically acts as a filter for your blood, and it also stores energy, produces hormones, and makes compounds that allow your gut to digest food. Your liver also metabolizes fat, proteins, and carbohydrates, helps with blood clots, and is essential in producing bile. A healthy liver is necessary for living a healthy life, which is why you need a transplant if it stops working.
1. Abdominal Pain
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and a swollen or achy feeling in your stomach are all common symptoms of liver failure – unfortunately, they are also common symptoms of many other illnesses. Keep in mind that your liver is on the right side of your abdomen, so if you’re feeling swollen or achy there, it might be worth looking into. If you feel significant swelling for a long period of time, you should absolutely get it checked out.
2. Joint Pain
Another common symptom of liver failure that could also be a common symptom for many other ailments is joint pain. Liver disease can lead to autoimmune problems, where the immune system starts to attack healthy cells – that can lead to significant join pain, especially for females.
An unhealthy liver can allow too much copper to build up in your brain, which can lead to confusion that is similar to something someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia would experience. You might find that simple tasks are more difficult than they should be, or that you feel like you just aren’t thinking correctly. This is a sign of a later stage of liver disease, meaning it’s probably not the first thing you’ll notice.
4. Darker Pee
You might already know that very yellow urine can be a sign of dehydration. Well, very dark urine can also be a sign of liver failure. You might also notice (if you’re looking) that your feces is actually appearing yellow rather than brown. This could be a sign that your liver is damaged and having trouble processing toxins. If you notice it happening quite often, speak to a doctor.
5. Loss of Appetite
A loss of appetite and significant weight loss are two of the more common early signs of liver failure – they often go hand in hand with gut issues. As you probably already know, loss of appetite could be the sign of so many different things. If you notice it with some of these other symptoms, it’s worth talking to a doctor.
6. Itchy Skin
Liver disease or failure often leads to bile being deposited into the skin. This can cause you to feel super itchy all the time, no matter what. If you find that you can’t stop scratching, it might not be allergies – it could be something more serious.
7. Bleeding or Bruising Easily
Do you find that you’re suddenly bruising and bleeding really easily, even though you’ve never experienced that before? It could be because of liver failure. When your liver can no longer produce enough proteins to clot blood after an injury, you’ll notice more bruising and bleeding.
If you’ve ever had gallstones, you’ll know that they are extremely painful – they can cause serious stomach pain. Liver disease can actually cause gallstones because not enough bile is being secreted from the liver, meaning not enough bile reaches the gallbladder, and it can’t work properly.
9. Yellow Skin and Eyes
One common symptom of liver failure is jaundice. This refers to a yellow tint to skin and eyes – it’s not a bright yellow, just a shade. When your liver is failing, it allows bilirubin, a yellowish compound from broken down blood cells, to build up in your body. Too much bilirubin causes your skin and eyes to look yellow. Dark urine and feces are also a side effect of jaundice.
10. Skin Blemishes
If you start noticing skin blemishes that almost seem like a spider-like rash, it could be because your liver is failing. If it’s failing, it’s not properly cleaning your blood, leading to clotting issues near the surface of the skin.