Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What are the signs that someone's liver is damaged?"
I am a recovering alcoholic and now I'm afraid that I did a lot of damage to my liver. What are the early signs that I might have liver damage? Would there be symptoms if I did permanent damage?
It is admirable for you to have quit drinking alcohol and start looking into ways to improve your health. The liver is an amazing organ that is comparable to an enormous chemical factory. It is capable of performing multiple tasks from detoxifying toxic drugs and chemicals to synthesizing hormones, proteins, and fat as well as regulating old blood cells and generating bile from metabolic wastes. It takes in cholesterol and fatty acids from our intestines and coverts it to a more dense cholesterol molecule for transport. It is able to regenerate to a large extent but prolonedg substance or viral-induced injuries will cause irreparable damages to the liver resulting in scars or cirrhosis. The significance of liver cirrhosis is that it hinders the normal anatomy and physiology of the liver's normal function. The majority of blood from the intestines that is normally drained into the liver before going back to the heart is stagnant and builds up. This leads to venous hypertension in the portal system which is also known as portal hypertension, esophageal varices, and hemorrhoids. These varices can progress and lead to torrential bleeding to the point of requiring transfusions. Cirrhosis can also lead to poor clearing of bile leading to ascites (an increase of free fluid in the abdomen), juandice (yellowing of the kin), and itching. You may also get fatigue and encephalopathy. It is important to see your PCP or gastroenterologist soon who can monitor your liver function and treat any potential complications early.
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