Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
April 17, 2024 ·  5 min read

10 Signs of Liver Disease to Never Ignore

The liver is a vital organ in the human body that performs numerous functions necessary for overall health. It plays a crucial role in detoxifying harmful substances, producing bile to aid in digestion, storing energy, and metabolizing nutrients. However, liver disease can significantly impact the liver’s ability to perform these functions. This is everything you need to know about liver disease and 10 symptoms that you should never ignore.

Understanding Liver Disease

The illustration of liver is on the man's body against gray background. A men with hepatitis and fatty liver problem.
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Liver disease refers to any condition that affects the proper functioning of the liver. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including viral infections (such as hepatitis), excessive alcohol consumption, genetic disorders, autoimmune diseases, and certain medications. The severity of liver disease can range from mild inflammation to life-threatening conditions like cirrhosis or liver cancer. (1) In the early stages of the disease, symptoms may be mild or nonexistent. However, as the disease progresses, symptoms will become more apparent and severe. When the liver isn’t functioning well, it will lose its ability to perform these functions. This will end up negatively affecting other organs in the body, as well. If you have liver disease, it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible. The earlier you start treatment, the better chance you have of preventing further damage to your liver and other organs.

Read More: Signs of Fatty Liver Disease That Show Up in Your Face

The liver is responsible for many vital functions in your body, including:

The doctor looks at the Liver
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  • Filtering toxins from your blood
  • Producing bile to help digest fats
  • Storing vitamins and minerals
  • Regulating blood sugar levels
  • Breaking down hormones such as estrogen and testosterone
  • Producing proteins that help blood clotting

All of the Potential Causes of Liver Disease

Liver problems concept photo. The doctor points in diagnosis process to inscription Liver problems on a sheet of the medical history of the patient, which lies near the shape of liver and stethoscope
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To gain a better understanding of liver disease, it is important to be aware of the numerous potential causes. As mentioned earlier, viral infections like hepatitis A, B, and C can lead to liver damage. Excessive alcohol consumption over a prolonged period can result in alcoholic liver disease. Other causes include non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is often associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome, as well as inherited conditions like hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease.

10 Signs of Liver Disease

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One of the tricky parts about liver disease is that it can often be mistaken for other illnesses. Many of the symptoms are nonspecific, meaning that they are present in many other illnesses as well. Knowing the symptoms yourself can help you to better advocate for your own health. These are 10 symptoms that could mean your liver is in trouble. (2)

Read More: Bruise easily? Itchy skin? 5 signs you have liver damage without even knowing it

1. Jaundice

Woman with yellow eyes on light grey background. Symptom of hepatitis
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One of the primary signs of liver disease is jaundice, characterized by yellowing of the skin and eyes. It occurs when the liver cannot process bilirubin effectively, leading to its buildup in the bloodstream.

2. Fatigue and Weakness

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Liver disease can cause extreme fatigue and weakness due to the liver’s inability to metabolize nutrients and store energy properly. This means that no matter how well you sleep, you will feel lethargic and exhausted.

3. Abdominal Pain and Swelling

Young man sick at home sitting on sofa, Latin American has severe stomach pain and nausea, poisoned by poor quality food.
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Liver disease often causes pain and swelling in the abdomen. This can be due to the accumulation of fluid, known as ascites, as well as liver inflammation.

4. Nausea and Vomiting

Closeup portrait of Asian unhappy, annoyed, sick woman about to chuck, throw up, puke retch barf. Negative emotions, feelings, facial expressions. Asian woman with morning sickness.
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Individuals with liver disease may experience persistent nausea and vomiting, which can be a result of impaired digestion and metabolism.

5. Loss of Appetite and Weight Loss

Asian young woman eating food
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Liver disease can lead to a loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss. This occurs due to altered metabolism and a reduced ability to digest and absorb nutrients.

Read More: 9 Foods That Support Liver Function

6. Changes in Urine and Stool

Urine test strip or dipstick test used to determine pathological changes in a patient urine sample. The test read result in 60 to 120 seconds after immersed strip in urine specimen. Selective focus.
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Liver disease can cause changes in urine and stool color. Dark urine and pale stools are common indicators of liver dysfunction.

7. Itchy Skin

Multi-ethnic woman scratches her reddened hand due to itching. Allergy symptom, healthcare concept. Itchy skin can be caused by dermatitis, eczema, dry skin, burns, allergy, insect bites
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Liver disease can cause itchiness and skin rashes. This is often due to the buildup of bile salts in the bloodstream.

8. Easy Bruising and Bleeding

stain bruise wound on child knee.
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When the liver is not functioning properly, it may fail to produce enough clotting proteins, resulting in easy bruising and prolonged bleeding.

9. Mental Confusion and Cognitive Impairment

Tired young Asian man, accountant, businessman, freelancer. He sits in the office at a table with a laptop, looks through documents, holds his head in his hands, sighs a hard and boring day.
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In advanced stages of liver disease, toxins can accumulate in the bloodstream and affect brain function, leading to confusion, cognitive impairment, and even coma (known as hepatic encephalopathy).

10. Spider Angiomas and Caput Medusae

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These are visible signs of liver disease characterized by the appearance of spider-like blood vessels (spider angiomas) on the skin and enlarged veins across the abdomen (caput medusae).

Read More: Stop using ‘non-stick’ Teflon pans! This is what happens to your risk of cancer, liver and kidney disease

So You Think You Have Liver Disease: What Happens Next?

Liver anatomical model on doctor's table during hepatologist consultation for patient with side pain in background. Treatment liver diseases in medicine, conceptual image
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If you suspect you have liver disease based on the signs and symptoms mentioned above, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly. A healthcare professional will likely perform a physical examination, review your medical history, and order diagnostic tests such as blood tests, imaging studies (like ultrasound or MRI), and liver biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment Options

Human liver disease, diagnosis and liver treatment. Doctor showing liver anatomical model for treatment hepatitis, cirrhosis and cancer
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Treatment for liver disease depends on its cause and severity. In some cases, lifestyle modifications such as a healthy diet, weight management, and abstinence from alcohol may be sufficient. Medications can be prescribed to manage underlying conditions like viral infections or autoimmune diseases. In advanced cases, liver transplantation may be necessary. (3)

The Bottom Line

Woman holding human liver model with variety of healthy fresh food on the table. Concept of balanced nutrition for liver health
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Liver disease is a serious condition that should never be ignored. Recognizing the signs and symptoms associated with liver disease is crucial for early detection and timely medical intervention. By understanding the potential causes, signs, and next steps after suspecting liver disease, individuals can take proactive steps towards diagnosis, treatment, and maintaining liver health.

Read More: 5 Early Signs of Liver Damage You Should Look Out For


  1. Liver Disease.” Cleveland Clinic.
  2. Liver disease.” NHS
  3. What are the Treatment Options for Liver Disease?Bass Medical Group. September 14, 2022