Knowing the Symptoms of Liver Disease

Knowing the Symptoms of Liver Disease Could Save your Life

Knowing how to recognize the symptoms of liver disease can save your life. As with so many illnesses and diseases, liver disease, if spotted early enough, can be arrested, and cured (providing the causes have been identified and are avoided in future), and your liver can fully recover, growing new healthy tissue to replace any that has been damaged, just as long as the disease has not been allowed to progress too far – hence the importance of knowing what the warning signs to look out for.

An organ and a gland

Your liver is the largest internal organ (and also the largest internal gland) that you have in your body. In a healthy adult, a normal liver will weigh somewhere between 3 to 3.5 pounds and it plays a crucial role in a number of body system functions.

The functions of the liver

The key functions of the liver are to detoxify your blood, and to enhance your digestive system by creating bile, which helps to break down the fats that you consume into small pieces, making them easier for your small intestine to absorb. But that’s not all. Here is a quick summary of what your liver does for you:

  • It detoxes your blood, filtering out any harmful and unwanted substances like drugs and alcohol
  • It produces bile to aid digestion
  • It stores some of your body’s vitamins and iron
  • It stores glucose
  • It converts glucose into sugar that the body can use when the body’s sugar levels become depleted
  • It processes haemoglobin, insulin and a variety of other hormones
  • It converts ammonia into urea; an essential ingredient for healthy metabolism
  • It eliminates old red blood cells, which produces faecal matter which is normally brown in color. This is why when your stools are discolored (i.e. not brown) it can be an indication there is something wrong with your liver function.

Without a healthy liver, any holistic health lifestyle will become severely compromised, and depending on the nature and severity of disease, could prove fatal; which is why it’s so important to be able to detect and interpret the early symptoms of liver disease.

Hepatic disease

Liver disease is also sometimes referred to as hepatic disease. When any type of hepatic disease affects up to three quarters of your liver tissue, that’s when a significantly increase in liver function can be detected.

The causes of liver disease

Liver disease can be brought about in a number of different ways.

  • Its cells may be inflamed, as with hepatitis
  • The passage of bile may become obstructed, as in cholestasis
  • A build-up of cholesterol may occur
  • The flow of blood to the liver can be damaged
  • The tissue of the liver may be attacked and damaged by toxins

Alcohol abuse and cirrhosis of the liver

The most common cause of liver disease in North America is alcohol abuse. The final stage of liver disease (when the liver sustains severe scarring and cannot regenerate replacement tissue), is known as cirrhosis of the liver, and this is responsible for approximately 25,000 deaths per annum here in North America.

The classic symptoms of liver disease

The most frequent and common symptoms of liver disease include:

  • Bad breath
  • Black circles beneath the eyes
  • Bad body odor
  • Brown blemishes on the skin
  • Coated tongue
  • Discolored stools
  • Flushed facial appearance
  • Inflamed palms and soles of feet
  • Swollen eyeballs
  • Jaundice-the yellowing of the skin which can often also be evidenced in the whites of the eyes
  • Nausea
  • Pain – which is felt in the uppermost right hand quadrant of the abdomen
  • Increased tendency to perspire excessively

Some people also suffer from fatigue and weight loss.

These symptoms of liver disease relate to hepatic disease in general. But there are also many different, specific, illnesses or diseases that affect the liver, and each of these has its own specific symptoms.


The symptoms of liver disease that are associated with gallstones, include pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen; vomiting, (having eaten a fatty or greasy meal); and if the gallbladder itself becomes infected, this may also bring about a fever.

Cirrhosis of the liver

As hepatic disease progresses and reaches the stage of cirrhosis, the following symptoms of liver disease may often appear.

  • A tendency to bruise more easily. This is because the liver is no longer able to efficiently clot the blood
  • Itchiness. The result of bile salts being deposited in the skin can cause itching
  • Enlarged male breasts. This is a condition known as gynecomatia and can be brought about by upsetting the balance of sex hormones, and an increase in the hormone estradiol in particular.
  • Erectile dysfunction. The upsetting of the balance of sex hormones can also bring about a reduction in sex drive and cause the testicles to shrink.
  • Feeling confused. Feelings of confusion can arise when the levels of ammonia in the bloodstream become too high. This ammonia is normally removed from the bloodstream by a healthy liver, but when liver health is compromised, the sufferer may experience feelings of confusion.
  • Feelings of lethargy. This is also potentially brought about by the increase in blood ammonia.
  • Decrease in muscle tissue. A compromised liver will also reduce its production of proteins, and this can lead to the wasting of muscle.
  • Swollen stomach veins. Because blood pressure becomes increased with a cirrhotic liver, the blood flow to that liver receives can become compromised. This may result in a swelling to the veins around the stomach area.

The unusual metabolism of fats

Another of the prime symptoms of liver disease is the abnormal metabolism of fats, which can manifest itself in the following ways:

  • Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, at the same time as decreased levels of HDL cholesterol.
  • Hypertension or blood pressure caused by your blood vessels becoming blocked by fatty deposits. This can also potentially lead to stroke and heart attack.
  • Fatty tumors and lymphomas developing in the skin
  • Significant weight gain that could lead to obesity
  • Difficulty in losing weight, even though you may be dieting
  • A sluggishly slow metabolism
  • Bloated stomach
  • The appearance of cellulite
  • Developing a roll of fat around the upper abdomen your own armchair.

Symptoms to look for with your digestive system

The symptoms of liver disease can also be seen in relation to the digestive system and can include things like:

  • Constipation
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Indigestion and/or reflux
  • The inability to tolerate alcohol
  • The inability to tolerate fatty food
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

Symptoms relating to blood sugar levels

The symptoms of liver damage that relate to blood sugar include things like:

  • Developing a craving for sweets things
  • Unstable levels of sugar in the blood, also known as hypoglycaemia
  • The onset, in later life, of type II diabetes

Symptoms relating to your immune system

Poor liver health can also affect your immune system in which case the symptoms of liver disease to watch out for include:

  • Developing new, allergies such as asthma, hay fever, and hives
  • excessive itching
  • Developing skin rashes
  • An increased incidence of autoimmune disease
  • Developing fibromyalgia
  • An increase in the incidence of viral and bacterial infections

Spot the symptoms of liver damage and give your liver the chance to recover

The health of your liver, is not only crucial for a continued holistic health lifestyle, but is essential for any type of healthy lifestyle. The power of the liver to heal itself from many diseases brought about by alcoholic or non-alcoholic fatty liver is quite amazing; provided that the disease is spotted early; so knowing what the potential symptoms of liver disease are, as discussed above, and keeping a watchful eye out for them is absolutely crucial.


Article republished with permission:  Article originally posted on

About the Author

Michelle Toole is the founder and head editor of Healthy Holistic Living. This roll spawned from a health crisis over 14 years ago.  Michelle went from marathon runner to bed ridden in what felt like overnight. Out of crisis came change, which at the time felt life ending but in retrospect was life fulfilling. Through this experience came the creation of a site designed to share her experience and passion for holistic living and to support others who desire to create a shift in their lives.  Learn all about her life’s inspiration and journey to health and wellness.

10 thoughts on “Knowing the Symptoms of Liver Disease”

  1. Over five years ago I was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver i am a recovering alcoholic who has now been abstinent for 5 years. All the symptoms in this article are correct i experienced them all but it seems i was diagnosed in time. Do please take note of the warning signs and do something about it. I did and am here to tell the tale. Get help before it is too late. It’s not an easy path but it can be done. Good luck.

  2. Hi. Last 2012 my father was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis but he isn’t alcohol or any beverage drinker, but he smoke. Heavy smoker. Could that be a reason for his disease?

  3. My father died of liver cancer, aged 77. I have recently been diagnosed with liver cysts which I am being monitored for. I’m really worried that this is hereditary although my GP thinks not, she said had my father been in his 40’s then maybe. Should I be worried and get some genetic testing done?

  4. I’ve had a pain in my right side near the rib cage been in pain for over 6 months and doctors can’t find the source but I am a drinker and when I drink it gets worse I have most of these symptoms but I don’t know what to exactly ask a doctor because most of the ones I have seen don’t really go any further on the situation what should I do ?

  5. I complained to my G.P. for many years that there was something wrong with my body. She, of course, ran blood tests each time and came back with the same answer “cut back on your drinking”. Stupid woman! I wasn’t drinking at the time. After many years of nagging on my part her locum picked up that I had been infected by a blood transfusion causing HepC. The ministry of health admitted it was their fault after I provided them with my medical notes dating back to the early 1980’s and so I was approved for a WONDER drug which has now completely demolished the HepC but my liver is now full of holes and I have to have a transplant. I feel completely drained all day – everyday, my memory is shot to pieces, I have trouble functioning as I used to and also have trouble with walking/fainting etc. I URGE people to get a second opinion if their G.P. isn’t listening to them!!!


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