The liver is the largest organ in the body.
It is responsible for helping the body digest food, store energy and eliminate toxins. However, these functions can be affected by diseases such as liver disease. Here we will see what are the first signs of liver disease.
Liver disease or liver disease is any condition or disorder that causes damage to the liver and prevents it from working properly, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, or fatty liver. It can happen for different reasons:
- Cancer: such as that of the liver or biliary tract, or hepatic adenoma.
- infections: This is the case of hepatitis A, B and C. It occurs due to viruses or parasites that infect the liver, causing inflammation and decreasing its functioning. These harmful microorganisms can be spread through blood or semen, by coming into contact with someone who is infected, or by consuming contaminated food and water.
- Immune system problems: are disorders in which the immune system attacks certain parts of the body, in this case the liver. The most common in relation to liver disease are biliary cholangitis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, or autoimmune hepatitis.
- genetic disorders: An inherited abnormal gene can cause different substances to tend to accumulate in the liver, causing liver damage. These diseases may be alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, Wilson’s disease, or hemochromatosis.
Other factors that can damage the liver and promote liver disease are:
- Drink alcohol in excess.
- Consume excess sugar and sodium.
- Eat lots of trans fats.
- Having a family history of liver disease.
- Have type 2 diabetes.
- have obesity
- Having sex without using protection.
- Have tattoos or piercings.
Hispanics/Latinos tend to have liver disease, specifically cirrhosis, hepatitis, or fatty liver, to a greater extent than Caucasians or African Americans.
- Foods that help purify the liver
Some studies show that they can even suffer from these problems on average between 5 and 10 years earlier than the rest of the communities.
Early signs of liver disease
Be aware of the following warning signs of liver disease to anticipate it and prevent it from getting worse:
We have all suffered from itching or scratching at some point and we know how irresistible it is to scratch.
Although this symptom can be a sign of many conditions, specialists say that it is one of the symptoms of liver disease that most often goes unnoticed.
It occurs when the liver cannot process bile due to high levels of bilirubin (a bile pigment). That lack of fluid flow results in bothersome dry, flaky skin.
The main functions of the liver are to digest food and remove toxins from the body. When it’s not working properly, these harmful substances can travel to different parts of the body, including the brain.
This presence of the toxins can cause, among other things, confusion, problems concentrating or remembering things, disorientation, difficulty speaking or moving, changes in mood and even hallucinations.
Other characteristic early signs of liver disease are tiredness, fatigue, or weakness.
Although specialists do not yet know the link to these symptoms, they believe it could be due to alterations in brain chemistry similar to those that occur during changes in mood.
pain over belly
Usually located in the upper right part of the belly (below the ribs), it is one of the most common and recognizable signs of liver disease.
This persistent and stabbing pain may be due to retention of fluid, or albumin and protein in the blood, which can progress to an inflammation of the stomach of those affected called ascites.
By affecting liver function, liver disease is often responsible for reduced protein production and circulation.
This causes circulatory problems, leading to swelling and fluid buildup, also known as edema, especially in the feet, legs, or ankles.
This occurs due to the effect of gravity, which draws the fluid towards the lower part of the body.
Jaundice or bleeding
Jaundice is the yellowish coloration that acquires the skin and the sclera (white membrane of the eyes).
This can occur due to the accumulation of bilirubin in the blood, due to a malfunction of the liver caused by liver disease.
Another symptom that can cause this condition is the tendency to bleed or hurt more easily, due to the decrease in the speed with which platelets are produced, proteins necessary for blood to clot.
Changes in urine color
Urine and stools can take on a dark yellow or even black hue when bilirubin levels in the blood rise.
This condition occurs due to the malfunction of the liver, which is not able to digest food properly and eliminate toxins.
Liver disease affects metabolism, digestion, and the body’s ability to process and eliminate toxins.
This set of alterations translates into different gastrointestinal problems, including indigestion, reflux, vomiting and nausea.
How to take care of the liver
Many of these signs can go unnoticed at first, so it is important to carry out regular check-ups to know our state of health. Another way to take care of the liver is:
- Eating a healthy, balanced and sustainable diet: rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meat, grains and seeds, while being low in trans fats, refined sugars and salty products.
- Exercising frequently: Although the best effects are seen with moderate or intense physical activity, any exercise, even walking, is a good start to control weight and promote proper liver function.
- Reducing alcohol consumption: in excess, these drinks are the worst enemy of the liver. Experts advise drinking up to 2 drinks a day for men and 1 for women. One drink is roughly equivalent to a glass of beer, a glass of wine, or a shot of distilled spirits.
Sources consulted: US National Library of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mayo Clinic, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.