Help someone with useful health advice.

Signs and Symptoms of Liver Problems

Signs and Symptoms of Liver Problems
The liver is a glandular organ that is located in the abdominal cavity. Poor eating habits, excessive consumption of alcohol, or substance abuse are often the contributing factors behind the development of liver diseases. The onset of symptoms of liver problems may be acute or chronic. The following write-up provides information on the signs and symptoms of liver problems.
Prabhakar Pillai
Last Updated: Apr 5, 2018
The liver is a large organ that is located beneath the diaphragm, in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen. It is pinkish-brown in color. It plays a vital role in various bodily processes. The liver helps to synthesize glucose from glycerol as well as certain amino acids. Proteins, especially the ones that facilitate the process of coagulation of blood are synthesized by the liver. This glandular organ also plays a role in the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. Bile, which is a digestive juice that is produced by the liver, aids in the digestion of fats. Another important function performed by this organ is the detoxification of the body. The liver filters and neutralizes alcohol, drugs, and other toxins that get accumulated in the body. The functioning of the liver can get adversely affected in the event of excessive consumption of alcohol or substance abuse. The symptoms experienced by the affected individual would vary depending on the underlying liver problem.

Symptoms Associated with Liver Problems

Though the liver cells can regenerate or repair themselves, the liver may not be able to perform its functions under certain circumstances. Some of the medical conditions that could affect this organ include fatty liver disease, hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, etc. Here are some of the conditions affecting this organ, along with the corresponding signs and symptoms.

Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease is categorized into alcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. In this condition, excess fat accumulates in the liver cells, causing them to enlarge. With time, inflammatory cells begin to replace the healthy tissue. The deposition of fat in the liver cells is medically referred to as steatosis, whereas the damage or inflammation that occurs as a result of accumulation of fat in the liver is known as steatohepatitis. If left untreated, this condition may lead to cirrhosis.

Unfortunately, fatty liver disease is often asymptomatic during the stage of steatosis. Hence, this problem is diagnosed incidentally, when people undergo certain tests.

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which occurs in people who don't drink alcohol, or drink very little, is often referred to as the 'silent' liver disease. However, there are levels of severity in this condition, wherein certain symptoms begin to appear.

Symptoms appear when inflammation leads to a more advanced stage of scar tissue formation. In advanced stages, this condition may lead to cirrhosis, which in turn may cause symptoms such as:
  • Fluid retention
  • Wasting of the muscles
  • Bleeding from the intestines
  • Liver failure

This is a hereditary disease wherein accumulation of iron gives rise to liver damage. Though the retention of iron in the liver begins at birth, the symptoms begin to appear after 20 to 30 years.

During the initial stages there are no visible signs of this problem. As the disease progresses, the following symptoms are observed:
  • Swollen joints
  • Fatigue
Other symptoms that may appear later include:
  • Bleeding in the dilated veins in the esophagus
  • Abdominal pain and tenderness
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Change in skin color (grayish)
  • Diabetes

Pyogenic Liver Abscess
This condition is characterized by the formation of pus in the liver. It is often caused by bacteria, such as Bacteroides, Enterococcus, Streptococcus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Staphylococcus aureus. In many cases of pyogenic liver abscess, more than one type of bacteria may be responsible for the formation of pus-filled abscesses.

  • Weakness
  • Chest pain
  • Dark urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Pain in the right side of the upper abdomen
  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Fever
  • Chills

Wilson's Disease
Human body needs certain amount of copper for its well-being. However, when this amount exceeds the limit, and the body becomes incapable of getting rid of excess copper, especially inside the liver, it results in Wilson's disease. Gradually, the excess amount of copper accumulates in other vital organs of the body, thereby causing life-threatening consequences.

  • Fluid buildup in the legs and abdomen
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and the skin)
  • Swelling of the liver
  • Susceptibility to bruising
  • Fatigue

Hepatitis refers to the inflammation of liver cells that causes the liver to swell. Hepatitis is mostly caused by viruses, and the disease is named after the virus that causes it. People with a compromised immune system are more likely to get affected by hepatitis. Hepatitis could give rise to the following symptoms:

Symptoms (Acute Phase)
  • Joint pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Mild abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
Symptoms (Advanced Phase)
  • Dark urine
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Possibility of pus in the feces
  • Hives
  • Itchy skin

Gilbert's Syndrome
It is a genetic disorder wherein the liver is unable to process bilirubin (a pigment in bile). The increased levels of bilirubin in the blood cause Gilbert's syndrome. It affects 5% of the population. Men are at a higher risk of acquiring this disease than women. It is not considered as a harmful disease and does not need any treatment.

  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
In rare cases, affected people may experience other symptoms, such as fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, weakness, and abdominal pain.
Liver Cancer
Cancer is a serious disease wherein a malignant growth develops due to uncontrolled and abnormal cell division. There are two types of liver cancer:
  1. Hepatocellular Carcinoma (cancer arising from the liver itself)
  2. Metastatic Liver Disease (cancer which originates in other organs and then spreads to the liver)
Symptoms (Hepatocellular Carcinoma)
  • Enlarged liver
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Jaundice
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Easy bruising
Symptoms (Metastatic Liver Disease)
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Light-colored stools
  • Dark urine

Since the liver performs many functions that are essential for the healthy functioning of the body, liver diseases can lead to serious health problems. In fact, liver diseases can be life-threatening in the absence of prompt medical treatment, which is why, medical help must be sought by anyone who has been experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms.

Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and does not, in any way, intend to replace the advice of a medical expert.