The liver is an organ that performs several vital functions in the human body. It filters blood, removes toxins, stores energy, and produces bile. Liver disease is any condition that causes harm to this vital organ. There are over 100 different types of liver diseases, each presenting its own unique set of symptoms. The most common types include alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, viral hepatitis, autoimmune hepatitis, and Wilson’s disease.
Liver disease is one of the most common causes of chronic illness in the United States. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most misunderstood. Most people associate liver disease with alcoholism, but it can have many causes, including exposure to toxins, hepatitis B and C, and fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease is caused by obesity or a high-fat diet.
The symptoms of liver disease are often vague or unnoticeable at first. Because the liver does so many different things for the human body, many conditions can be associated with it. Here’s a brief primer on the signs and symptoms that may be linked to liver problems.
General weakness is a common symptom of many liver diseases, including alcoholic liver disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Liver disease symptoms can include fatigue, which may signify malnutrition due to poor digestion. Additionally, weakness may indicate anemia from chronic blood loss from the digestive tract. A liver may be too weak to make enough red blood cells because of cirrhosis or inflammation, which can lead to fatigue and shortness of breath.
Weakness in the upper body may also be a sign of ascites or fluid buildup in the abdomen from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or cirrhosis. Ascites can prevent the organs in the abdomen from functioning properly, leading to central nervous system problems. In addition to weakness in the arms and legs, symptoms of ascites include chest pain that worsens when lying down, abdominal bloating and swelling, and weight gain because of increased abdominal fat.
Finally, severe general weakness may point to bleeding into the abdomen because of portal hypertension. Portal hypertension occurs when blockages in the portal vein prevent blood from flowing back to the liver, causing portal vein hypertension and restenosis. Symptoms of portal hypertension include headaches and vomiting up blood caused by internal bleeding into the stomach or esophagus.