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Signs Of Liver Damage


The only effective treatment is to arrest the progress of the disease before the damage becomes great enough to pose a major threat to health. To make matters worse, liver damage often produces no overt symptoms, especially in the early stages. A person suffering from liver damage may feel no pain and experience no discomforts or visible signs of the disease. Early detection of liver disease is therefore as difficult as it is essential. In order to detect the damage and its causes, doctors rely on a number of different diagnostic methods.

Symptoms


Most of the time, liver damage produces no overt symptoms; however, if a disease of the liver has progressed to the point that symptoms are present, then obviously there is cause for concern and further testing and treatment are in order. Symptoms of liver disease, when they appear, include swelling of the abdomen, jaundice, and pain in the region of the liver or in other parts of the body, often non-localized. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, and rashes or discoloration of the skin. The presence of these symptoms is a strong indicator of liver damage. However, their absence is not any kind of assurance that the liver is not damaged.

Blood Tests


Damage to the liver often reveals itself through blood tests for liver enzymes. There are many such tests, but two enzymes are particularly important in revealing the presence of liver damage and in diagnosis of the cause. These are aspartate transaminase (AST) and alanine transaminase (ALT). Elevated levels of ALT is a more specific indicator of liver damage than elevated AST, which can also indicate heart problems, kidney damage, damage to or diseases of the skeletal muscles, and certain kinds of brain disorders. However, elevated levels of AST can help to pinpoint liver damage resulting from alcohol abuse, which is the single most common cause of liver disease.

If blood tests indicate that liver damage is likely present, follow-up diagnosis can include further blood tests, visual scans of the liver, lifestyle analysis to identify and correct risk factors, and sometimes a liver biopsy.

Medical Scanning


Medical visual scanning procedures include ultrasound, CT scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and similar techniques. A visual scan can reveal a swollen or inflamed liver (hepatitis), and show the presence of fatty deposits (fatty liver disease), fibrotic growths (fibrosis), scarring of liver tissue (cirrhosis), and growths or masses on the organ (cysts, benign tumors, liver cancer). Almost all liver diseases will reveal themselves in a visual scan.

Biopsy


A biopsy is a procedure in which the physician collects a sample of liver tissue for examination under a microscope and the conducting of tests. A biopsy is a way to identify liver cancer and certain bacterial or viral infections. A biopsy is not necessary for many liver diseases, but as a confirming diagnosis of liver cancer in particular it is usually indicated.

The liver is one of the most important organs of the body and also one of the most complex. It produces many different enzymes that play roles in digestion and metabolism, as well as metabolizing and removing from the bloodstream potentially damaging substances, most obviously alcohol.

It should come as no surprise that such a complex and multi-functional organ can be subject to breakdowns and damage from multiple sources. While the liver is quite robust and able to regenerate quickly from most injuries, some types of damage, notably from progressive liver diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver, are irreversible.

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Signs Of Liver Damage