The liver is one of the most important organs in the body – it performs several essential functions, including the processing of toxins and other chemicals in the blood, breaking down of red blood cells, synthesis of protein, production of certain hormones, storage of certain nutrients, and production of biochemical’s that are needed for digestion of food. It is impossible to live without a functioning liver, which is why liver diseases are so dangerous and must never be neglected. Unfortunately, most of us do not realize the importance of the liver, and therefore neglect its health. All of us are aware, at least vaguely, of what we need to do for a healthy heart, and what the signs of heart disease are. However, few of us are aware of the signs of liver disease and measures that can be practiced to prevent or manage it.
There are many different types of liver problems, but most are accompanied by an increase in the amount of bilirubin in the body. Bilirubin is a by product that is created when red blood cells break down; it is then used in the production of bile, which helps to digest fats. When liver function is impaired, bilirubin simply accumulates in the body, leading to what we call jaundice. People often speak of jaundice as if it is a medical condition itself, however jaundice is simply the term used to describe abnormally high levels of bilirubin in the body. It is one of the main signs of liver problems.
In many cases of liver disease however, there may be no symptoms at all. This is extremely dangerous, because the disease progresses silently and may not be detected till it is life threatening. In some cases however, there may be signs such as ascites, a condition involving accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity. This leads to bloating of the abdomen and almost constant breathlessness. Liver disease may also result in fluid accumulation in other parts of the body, known as edema.
Other signs of liver disease include unexplained itching, dark circles under the eyes, halitosis, constantly dark colored urine, and bleeding from even minor nicks and cuts. These can of course be signs of other conditions too, but if there is no obvious cause, they might be traced to liver disease. Finally, since digestion is also affected by a liver problem, there is usually also frequent indigestion, nausea, and inability to handle fatty foods and alcohol, both of which require a healthy liver for proper processing.