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Here's What Liver Disease Feels Like, Says Hepatologist 

It's important to recognize the signs.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

As a gastroenterologist and hepatologist in Beverly Hills, I've seen just about everything in terms of liver health and problems. The liver is your largest internal organ and performs a wide range of important functions to maintain your health.

The liver filters toxins from your blood, produces bile which aids in digestion (by helping to metabolize fat) and is excreted with feces, produces proteins and aids in amino acid metabolism, and stores certain vitamins and minerals for the body.

To simplify: your liver helps you digest food, store energy, and remove toxins. Maintaining a healthy liver will have a significant impact on your overall health and wellbeing. Read on to find out the causes and symptoms of liver disease—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

What Are the Causes of Liver Disease?

Liver diseases are numerous and varied. Here are some of the causes of various liver diseases. Please note that they may be interconnected and that certain exacerbating factors (such as a family history of liver disease or a pattern of excessive alcohol consumption) may increase the risk of other kinds of liver disease as well. Read on to read about the causes of liver disease.

  • Toxins
    • Drugs, poisons, or too much alcohol can cause fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, and many other conditions.
  • Viral infections
    • Eating or drinking contaminated food (Hepatitis A).
    • Unprotected sex or drug use (Hepatitis B).
    • Exposure to contaminated blood via shared needles, contaminated blood transfusions (Hepatitis C).
  • Autoimmune disease (your body attacking your liver)
    • Autoimmune hepatitis leading to other disorders and even liver failure
    • Primary biliary cholangitis
  • Genetically inherited liver problems
    • Hemochromatosis
    • Hyperoxaluria
    • Alpha-1 Antitrypsin
  • Cancer
    • Can come from a different area such as a lung, colon, or breast and spread to the liver.
    • Cancer that starts in the liver itself may be caused by hepatitis or excessive drinking.

What are the Major Signs of Liver Disease?

  • Symptoms of belly pain on the right side
  • Bruising easily.
  • Noticeable urine and/or stool color changes
  • Tiredness.
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Edema (swelling of the arms or legs)
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes)

What Should You Do if You Notice These Signs?

Generally, if you are experiencing any changes in your body, such as swelling in the abdomen or difficulty with urination, or bruising easily, blood and urine tests as well as imaging studies can assist in diagnosing liver disease.

Speaking with your primary care doctor if you notice these things can ensure that you get the necessary tests for the most likely problems. Following that, you would likely be referred to a hepatologist if there is a strong indication that you are dealing with a liver condition. 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.

Dr. Tabib is a Board-Certified Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at UCLA.

Siamak Tabib
Dr. Siamak Tabib is a Board-Certified Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at UCLA. Read more about Siamak