8 Symptoms of Liver Damage

Your liver is a large organ located right under your rib cage in your abdomen. It’s responsible for breaking down fat, filtering your blood, and removing toxins from your body. When your liver is damaged, it can no longer perform these jobs as effectively as it used to. There are many different types of liver damage and disease. Some are caused by viruses like hepatitis, some are genetic diseases, and some are caused by excessive drug or alcohol use. The most common cause of liver damage in the U.S. is alcohol abuse, which can cause inflammation of the liver cells. Another common type of damage is cirrhosis, a late-stage liver disease that occurs when the liver is too scarred to function properly.

Sometimes, liver damage can be treated with lifestyle changes. In other situations, medications or surgery are necessary to reverse the damage or stop it from progressing. Severe liver disease can require a transplant. Your liver plays an important role in many body functions, so damage to the organ can affect your entire body. The exact symptoms of liver damage vary depending on the type of damage or disease. However, all forms of damage have some symptoms in common. Here are eight signs and symptoms of liver damage:

1. Yellowing of the Eyes

The yellowing of the eyes is a condition called jaundice, and it’s one of the most obvious signs of liver damage. One of your liver’s main responsibilities is to filter your blood. Your red blood cells contain a yellow-orange substance called bilirubin, and when blood cells die, your liver should filter the bilirubin out of your bloodstream. When your liver is damaged and doesn’t function properly, bilirubin builds up in your blood and can turn the whites of your eyes yellow. It can make your skin look yellow as well, but it’s usually more noticeable in your eyes.

Some people also have light-colored stools and dark-colored urine when bilirubin builds up in their blood. Jaundice is very common in babies, but it’s rare in adults. When adults have jaundice, it’s usually a sign of a serious problem with your blood, liver, or gallbladder. Jaundice doesn’t usually cause any pain or discomfort, but severe cases can cause itchiness that’s difficult to relieve. If bilirubin levels build up in your blood to extreme levels, it can impair your brain functioning. However, the yellowing of the eyes and skin usually becomes noticeable long before that point, so most people get treatment before the jaundice affects the brain.