ZocdocAnswersHow would you know if someone has liver damage?

Question

How would you know if someone has liver damage?

My step-dad was an alcoholic but now he has quit. I'm still nervous that he might have ruined his liver. What are the symptoms if you have damaged your liver? Can it be life threatening if you let liver damage go untreated?

Answer

I am very glad to hear that your step father did manage to successfully quit drinking. This is a major accomplishment, and it is a very important step for him towards a healthier life style! Unfortunately, as you know, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can cause permanent and lasting damage to the liver. Therefore, most people who have a significant alcohol use history will need to be checked out by their primary care doctors in order to make sure this has not occurred. The doctor will look for signs of liver disease on physical examination. These can included an enlarged liver, various rashes, markings, and color changes in the skin, as well as other signs. They may also want to look for chemical evidence of liver damage, which can be done with a series of simple blood tests, called liver function tests. Finally, they may want to perform a radiologic study such as an abdominal ultrasound which will allow them to look at the texture of the liver, looking for evidence of scarring, known as cirrhosis. If any evidence of permanent liver disease is found, your step father's primary care doctor will probably refer them to a gastroenterology specialist for further management.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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