Signs of a damaged liver

Prescription medicines and herbal remedies may be just as toxic to your liver as alcohol abuse.

The liver has a vital role to play in keeping you healthy, so it is important to take good care of it. When working optimally, the liver filters blood from the digestive tract, neutralising harmful toxins and secreting bile to help break down fats.

The organ also produces proteins that have specific roles, such as helping blood to clot, among hundreds of other functions.

While we hope the medicines our doctors recommend will keep us healthy, overuse of some drugs could also be preventing the liver from doing its job properly.

Among the suspects are statins, used to lower cholesterol, some common antibiotics, and even medications for the heart.

According to medical website MSD Manual, many herbs contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which may also damage the liver. These herbs include borage, comfrey, and certain Chinese herbs, including ones used to make tea.

If you are concerned, ask your doctor to request a blood test to check your level of liver enzymes.

And watch out for the following symptoms that may be an indication your liver is compromised, according to

  • fatigue – unexplained tiredness is at the top of the list of common symptoms of liver damage
  • nausea – when the liver can’t do its job properly, toxins it has not been able to neutralise leech into your bloodstream making you feel sick in the stomach
  • pale-coloured stools – this occurs when insufficient bile salts have been released by an underperforming liver. Conversely, very dark almost black stools are a sign of blood in the bowel from advanced liver disease
  • yellowish skin or eyes – known as jaundice. This discolouration is caused by a build-up of bilirubin that has not been properly processed. Sometimes, this can cause itchiness around the body
  • dark-coloured urine – excess bilirubin can also lead to urine that is more orange or brown than pale yellow
  • bruising – if you bruise easily, it may indicate your liver is not producing enough blood clotting chemicals
  • swelling – water retention as a result of a damaged liver may appear around your abdomen, ankles and legs
  • reddened skin – people with advanced liver disease often present with very red palms of the hand. Others will develop visible clusters of spider-shaped arteries just under the skin surface on the upper part of the body.

Do you have to have a liver function test regularly to ensure you are not storing chemicals from your medications?

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.


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