Liver Disease Symptoms – Identifying the Need for a Liver Transplant

If you have started showing early liver disease symptoms, it is recommended that you seek the expert opinion of a medical practitioner to confirm the same and seek medical recourse. The symptoms of liver problems are not too subtle, and you’ll be able to identify them over the course of a few weeks.

Liver symptoms can range from mild and intermittent headaches and nausea to polyuria (frequent urination). Listed below are some of the most prominent liver disease symptoms.

liver disease symptoms

Jaundice is one of the primary liver disease symptoms

Liver Disease Symptoms

Jaundice

Jaundice is the most prominent symptom of liver disease as it’s the basic indication if there is anything wrong with either the liver or the gall bladder. Jaundice can be commonly observed, as the skin generally sports a yellowish orange color. The sclera (white part in the eye) displays a shade of yellow too.

The cause behind jaundice is the improper or insufficient production of bile in the liver. Bile helps in processing old blood and when bile is not properly produced, the problem results in jaundice. Sometimes, jaundice can be accompanied by other symptoms such as flu or joint aches.

This can be a result of an infection in the gall bladder or a contraction of acute hepatitis. It is better to visit a hospital or a medical facility to get the symptoms thoroughly checked in this case. As per traditional oriental medicine, two types of jaundice exist:

  • Yang Jaundice

Constipation, palpitation, thirst, urinary problems, yellowing of the tongue as well as abdominal distention are a part of the symptoms that are highlighted in this form of whole body jaundice. The body color changes to tangerine and this is generally brought on by moist heat and excessive dampness.

  • Yin Jaundice

Severe fever, poor appetite, nausea, fatigue, lassitude, loose stools, hypochondriac pain, palpitation, cold feet and hands, breaking breath, and edema are the most common symptoms of Yin Jaundice. The face, eyes and skin turn yellowish in this type of jaundice.

Appetite and Digestion

Another very common symptom that goes hand in hand with liver disease is loss or change in appetite. This is why liver disease causes weight loss in some cases. The weight loss can further trigger incorrect metabolism of the fats, proteins and carbohydrates present in the body, worsening the condition of the pre-existing liver problem.

This loss of appetite soon kick starts a chain of events which begins with anemia as the hepatocytes, cells in the main tissue in the liver, keep degrading.

At the onset of diarrhea, vomiting and nausea, the body becomes weaker and the presence of even a single gastric ulcer in the body can cause bouts of blood vomit. The gastric ulcers grow faster due to the reactions between the nitrogen, bile acids, gastrin, mucus membrane and the histamine that line the walls of the stomach.

Coloration of the Stool

The stool also shows initial signs of discoloration as it becomes lighter in color and pale. This is brought on if there is a problem with the secretion of the bile pigments, which is caused either due to a blockage in the bile ducts or because of a stop or drop in the level of bile secretion.

signs of liver disease

Polydyspia (excessive thirst) ranks among the main liver disease symptoms

Almost all liver and gall bladder diseases cause irritable as well as irregular bowel movements. The bile gives the stool its natural dark color, but due to the blockage in the bile duct or the improper secretion of bile, the stool takes up a lighter color, which is an indicator that something is wrong with either the duct or the liver itself. The ducts are generally blocked because of stones, inflammation or scarring.

Distention and Bloating

Another symptom is distention of the abdomen. This occurs near the lower part of the right side of the rib cage, and this is caused because of ascites or hepatomegaly. As the distention takes a turn for the worse, there is an applied pressure on the diaphragm which results in pain during breathing.

Polyuria and Polydyspia

Polyuria means excessive and very frequent urination and polydyspia means excessive abnormal thirst. These are common symptoms among many diseases, but they are also noticeable in people suffering from liver diseases.

When doctors pen down reasons for liver transplant, these are the other minor liver disease symptoms they look for:

  • Skin problems
  • Allergies
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Eye irritation
  • Itching skin
  • Mood swings
  • Back aches
  • Strokes

If any of these liver disease symptoms are manifested together and persist over a period of time, it is recommended that you consult your medical practitioner immediately. Liver failure generally requires a liver transplant surgery as treatment. This can be determined in a liver function test.

Research has shown that among a group of ten patients who died because of a lack of compatible livers for transplants, at least five of them were ignorant to the symptoms of transplant rejection that they were facing till it was too late. This is one of the main reasons why you’ll need to monitor your health regularly through medical checkups to ensure that your body doesn’t spring a surprise from the blue.

Liver Transplant Surgery – An Introduction To Liver Transplant Procedures

A liver transplant surgery can be a viable option for a person with a liver that has failed beyond repair. In a typical liver transplant procedure, the damaged liver is replaced by similar but non-identical liver tissue. The diseased liver is removed from its location and replaced by a part of the donor organ.

Liver transplant procedure

Liver Transplant Surgery in Progress

An Introduction to Liver Transplant Surgery

To gain a better understanding of the liver, it is essential to learn about some of the basic functions it performs:

  • Controls the levels of glucose, amino acids and fats in the blood
  • Manufactures bile which is useful in processing lipids in the small intestine
  • Neutralizes and destroys toxins and drugs
  • Stores vitamins, iron and other such important chemicals
  • Regulates hormones including sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen

Information on Liver

Here’s some more information on the liver, and the processes that it helps in:

Liver Function #1 – Production of Instant Energy

The liver’s main function is to break food down into smaller components and release energy in the process when there is a need for it. Carbohydrates are converted to glucose and stored in the muscles and in the liver as glycogen. As and when there is a need for energy, the liver simply converts the glycogen back to glucose to be used by the body.

Liver Function #2 – Removal of Waste

Not all of the body’s wastes are removed by the kidneys. Waste matter in the body which cannot be expelled by the kidneys is absorbed by the liver from the blood. The waste matter then proceeds through the bile ducts into the bowels.

Liver Function #3 – Protection Against Infections

The liver also fights infections that ravage through the body’s defense system, especially infections that are prone to arise in the bowels. The liver does this by activating a defense mechanism present in the body called the Machrophage System. This system contains ‘Kuppfer Cells’ which destroy all the bacteria that harm the body. The liver’s ability to fight off these infections is lost if there is any damage to the liver.

Why Liver Failure Occurs

Liver failure can occur owing to reasons ranging from genetic disorders and commonly known diseases to irresponsible lifestyle choices. The most common causes of liver failure include:

1. Hepatitis

This is basically an inflammation of the liver. This is brought on by both viral and non-viral modes. The non-viral causes for Hepatitis include excessive drug or alcohol use.

  • Hepatitis A:

    This is generally observed in countries with poor levels of hygiene and low standards of living. Hepatitis A infection is caused by contamination of drinking water and edibles. Vaccination is recommended in case you intend to travel or stay in such places.

  • Hepatitis B:

    Exposure to infected blood is the primary reason for the spread of Hepatitis B. The infection is generally transferred from a mother to her child. But, in certain countries, sharing of needles and sexual intercourse with affected people are the main causes for the spread of Hepatitis B.

  • Hepatitis C:

    This disorder is transmitted through the blood.

2. Alcoholic Liver Disease

There is no conclusive evidence to indicate that only heavy drinkers are affected by this. It can be a combination of different factors that may lead to it including genetics. In more serious cases, it causes alcoholic hepatitis or permanent scarring of the liver, known as Cirrhosis.

Liver Disease Statistics

Statistics show that 40% of men and 30% of women consume more than 5-6 units of alcohol each day

A liver transplant procedure is used for liver treatment in cases where the patient is suffering from acute liver failure or liver diseases which are in their final stages. Such liver transplant procedures may not be recommended for people whose livers have mild swelling, or whose livers are affected by conditions that can be cured using pharmacological interventions or drugs. Pre-liver transplant preparation will help you make an informed decision based on information about liver transplant complications and transplant rejection.

Types of Liver Transplants

There are three types of liver transplant surgeries – Living Related Liver Transplantation, Cadaveric Liver Transplantation and Auxiliary Liver Transplantation.

  • Cadaveric Liver Transplantation

In this type, the liver that is transplanted is taken from the body of a brain dead individual, once the family members of the concerned individual provide their consent.

  • Living Related Liver Transplantation

In this type, a part of the liver from a living relative is transplanted to the affected person. There are certain conditions involved in such a transplant, as only a first degree relative or spouse will be allowed to donate a liver.

  • Auxiliary Liver Transplantation

In this type of transplant, some parts of the donor’s liver will be implanted near the recipient’s native liver. In case there’s graft failure, the native liver will be able to kick in, or it can be used for development of gene therapy.

Once you’re diagnosed with a liver disease, your physician will be able to determine whether or not you require a liver transplant using a liver function test that will identify the liver disease symptoms. The type of transplant that you should undergo will also be decided based on the condition of your liver. Some liver transplant facts will also educate you on whether you should opt for it.