The liver is one of the largest organs of our body and is directly responsible for vital functions like growth, nutrition, reproduction and immunization. A problem in the liver may disrupt its normal functioning and have an impact on the overall well-being of the person often resulting in poor health conditions.
The essential functions of the liver include processing of nutrients from the food, building proteins, removing toxins from the system and secretion of bile. Though the liver is quite resilient and capable of recovering from smaller ailments, a severe liver disease can severely affect its functioning and at times, may even prove to be fatal.
It is important to understand that almost 50% of the cases of liver disease produce no symptoms at all and even when the symptoms appear, they might be very non-specific and difficult to identify. The good news is that the liver has an ability to regenerate and in most of the cases it repairs itself before the damage is evident.
However, it is important to identify liver problems as early as possible as long term complications of liver disease in the events of incomplete regeneration or progressive development of scar tissue within the liver can be quite serious and the damage caused to the liver might be irreversible.
Common symptoms Of Liver Problems
The presence of curved and whitish nails may indicate a liver problem. Nose bleeds and bruises are also common symptoms of liver problems and result due to the decreased ability of the liver to build proteins.
Excessive thirst, loss of appetite, irregular bowel movements, frequent urination and white coloured stools may also indicate liver problems.
Jaundice refers to the yellowish pigmentation of the skin and the eyes due to an increase in the level of bilirubin in the system. The excess bilirubin present in the bloodstream may leak into the surrounding tissues and impart a yellow colour to them. Persistent jaundice results due to inadequate filtering of wastes and toxins from the blood and indicates the presence of serious liver problems.
Inflammation Of The Liver
Hepatitis or liver inflammation is mostly caused due to a viral, bacterial or other parasitic infections. It may also result due to auto-immune disorders and metabolic diseases. The long term consumption of alcohol, use of certain drugs and toxins can also lead to hepatitis.
The initial stages of hepatitis are characterized by non specific flu-like symptoms such as, joint pain, fatigue, fever, muscle aches, nausea and headaches. The later stages may result in more specific symptoms such as, profound loss of appetite, dark urine, abdominal discomfort and yellowing of skin and eyes.
A very common symptom is swelling under the lower ribs which may put severe pressure on the diaphragm resulting in painful breathing. Chronic hepatitis may result in excessive weakness and fatigue and often remains asymptomatic. Physical examination may show an enlarged liver and accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity.
Cirrhosis results due to extensive damage and scarring of the lung tissues. A person with cirrhosis may have easy bruising and bleeding tendencies. It may also lead to weight loss and swelling of the legs. Later stage cirrhosis may also result in kidney dysfunction, hepatic encephalopathy and bleeding from esophageal varices.
Presence Of Genetic And Hereditary Disorders
Hereditary diseases such as hemochromatosis which results in accumulation of iron in the body and Wilson’s disease which results in deposition of copper put tremendous pressure on the liver. They may result in liver problems and eventually lead to liver damage. Genetic disorders such as Gilbert’s syndrome may result in inadequate and ineffective metabolism of bilirubin, thus leading to liver problems.