How does one know if one's liver is healthy?
I'm a middle aged man who has drunk (sometimes to excess) very regularly for over 20 years. I'm no longer using alcohol, but I'm worried about my liver. How would I know if it was still working right? Are there tests I can do or symptoms I'd look for?
The liver is a very resilient organ, which is responsible for many things including filtering the blood and metabolizing certain toxins, medications, and alcohols. Patients who have severe liver damage can present with a multitude of symptoms including, ascites, blood clotting problems, changes in your levels of various electrolytes, and jaundice. These are symptoms associated with severe liver disease and are should not be seen if your liver is working normally. Infections can also cause damage to your liver including hepatitis B and C. All the causes of liver disease are outside the scope of this discussion but should be discussed with your primary care doctor. Talk to your doctor about whether you may be at a high risk for exposure to these diseases based upon your medical history. Your primary care doctor can best assess your medical history, your presenting signs and symptoms and decide upon the appropriate work up and possible treatment methods if available. Certain lab tests including liver functions tests, and hepatitis panel may be ordered, and the values obtained from these tests can give a very good idea of whether or not you have a risk for liver disease. The fact that you are not using alcohol any more is a good start to protecting your liver from any further damage.