Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can your liver be in trouble even if you don't have jaundice?"
My mom had been a hard drinker for years and now has been complaining about a lot of body aches and feeling bad all the time. She doesn't have yellow skin-jaundice, but I'm worried her liver is bad. Can your liver be in trouble without the yellow skin?
Jaundice is a sign that the level of bilirubin (a molecule that is metabolized by the liver) is elevated in the body. Jaundice can occur in people with liver failure an occasionally in people without liver failure. When jaundice occurs because of the liver, it usually means that the liver has either been severely damaged in a short period of time (which does not occur with alcohol), or that the liver has been slowly and irreversible damaged over a long period of time (which can occur with alcohol). Thus, your mother's liver could be in trouble even without jaundice because it doesn't occur until the damage is already done. The body aches and feeling bad all the time could be caused by many different problems. Often body aches and feeling bad all the time is due to an infection. It is possible that her drinking has caused liver damage and this is causing the symptoms. It is also possible that she has a reduced amount of essential nutrients (which often occurs with alcoholics) resulting in these symptoms. I suggest that your mother schedule an appointment with her primary care physician. He or she will be able to help her get into an alcohol treatment program. In addition, her physician can perform liver function tests to make sure that her liver is doing okay.
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