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Signs Your Liver Has Been Damaged, Say Physicians

Signs of liver damage you should never ignore.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

According to the American Liver Foundation, there are over 100 types of liver disease—and they are killing millions of Americans every year. Your liver is absolutely crucial to your health and vitality, performing the essential function of filtering more than 250 gallons of blood every 24 hours. "If your liver stopped working, toxins would accumulate, you couldn't digest your food and medications would never leave your body," says Saleh Alqahtani, M.B.Ch.B., M.S, director of clinical liver research for Johns Hopkins Medicine. Here are signs you are suffering from liver damage. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


How Have I Damaged My Liver?

drinking alcohol

While liver damage can be a genetic issue, there are many lifestyle factors that lead to liver failure—including but not limited to obesity, alcohol abuse, unprotected sex, and type 2 diabetes. Over time, liver damage can lead to scarring (cirrhosis), which can lead to liver cancer and liver failure—but if treatment is administered early enough, the liver may heal. It is crucial to be aware of the signs of liver damage in order to treat it early.


Yellow Eyes and Skin

Woman applying lotion to the skin around her eyes in the mirror

Jaundice is a symptom of liver disease or cirrhosis—a liver that is damaged cannot get rid of bilirubin, the substance which causes eyes and skin to take on a yellowish tone. "High levels of bilirubin may be attributed to inflammation, or other abnormalities of the liver cells, or blockage of the bile ducts," according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Sometimes, jaundice is caused by the breakdown of a large number of red blood cells, which can occur in newborns. Jaundice is usually the first sign, and sometimes the only sign, of liver disease."


Chronic Fatigue

Woman sleeping on the couch in the living room.

While fatigue by itself is not necessarily a sign of liver damage, it should never be ignored. "If you have tiredness, brain fog, lack of motivation, among other symptoms, you should first have a thorough evaluation with a medical doctor," says Marcelo Campos, MD. "Anemia, sleep apnea, autoimmune diseases, infections, other hormonal impairments, mental illnesses, heart and lung problems, and kidney and liver diseases are just some among many medical conditions that could cause similar symptoms."

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Unexplained Weight Loss

weight loss measuring

As with colorectal cancer, liver damage is linked to unexplained weight loss. "Because the liver plays a key role in the digestive system, cirrhosis and cancer in the liver can both cause you to lose your appetite and you may lose weight," according to the Cancer Council of New South Wales.

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Abdominal Pain

Woman sitting on the bed with pain.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, "Most people with liver disease report abdominal pain. Pain in your liver itself can feel like a dull throbbing pain or a stabbing sensation in your right upper abdomen just under your ribs. General abdominal pain and discomfort can also be related to swelling from fluid retention and enlargement of your spleen and liver caused by cirrhosis."

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When Should I See a Doctor?

Mature old medical healthcare professional doctor wearing white coat, stethoscope, glasses and face mask standing in hospita.l looking at camera

If you are experiencing any symptoms of liver failure, seek medical attention immediately. "You don't want to turn yellow with jaundice or feel pain in your upper right abdomen because those are signs your liver is already very sick," says Dr. Alqahtani. "It is far better to stop liver disease before it gets too serious." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan