The liver is one of the body’s most crucial organs, responsible for detoxifying the blood, metabolizing macronutrients, and producing chemicals that enable essential bodily processes. And during this pandemic, many of us are not treating it properly: “Although national figures are not available, admissions for alcoholic liver disease at Keck Hospital of the University of Southern California were up 30% in 2020 compared with 2019, said Dr. Brian Lee, a transplant hepatologist who treats the condition in alcoholics,” reports Kaiser Health News. “There’s been a tremendous influx,” Dr. Haripriya Maddur, a hepatologist at Northwestern Medicine, told the website. Read on to see the #1 danger sign—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.
If your liver isn’t functioning properly, it can cause serious, even fatal, health problems. So how does your liver let your body know it’s in poor condition? According to the Cleveland Clinic, fluid retention is the most common symptom of liver disease. It’s experienced by about 50% of people with cirrhosis, the most severe form of liver disease, when scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue. Fluid retention can show up as swelling in your legs or as a distended abdomen.
It’s caused when the liver no longer is able to produce albumin, a protein that prevents fluid from leaking out of the blood vessels and into tissue. Other symptoms of liver disease include:
Jaundice, otherwise known as yellowing of the eyes or skin. This is caused when the liver is no longer able to process bilirubin, a natural chemical produced by red blood cells; instead, it builds up in the eyes or skin. This is a sign of more serious liver disease, suggesting liver failure.
Bleeding, caused when scar tissue in the liver prevents it from processing as much blood as it used to. The blood then diverts to places like the esophagus and digestive tract. You may vomit blood or it may show up in your stool.
Pale stools, which can indicate that the liver is having difficulty processing bile.
Itchy skin, caused by extra bile salts collecting under the skin.
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Dark urine, caused by excess bilirubin being excreted through the kidneys. If you’re having symptoms of liver disease, contact your healthcare provider right away.
Cirrhosis can be slowed but not reversed, so it’s important to prevent your liver from reaching that deteriorated state.
To keep your liver healthy, get regular exercise (at least five times a week for 30 minutes each day); maintain a healthy diet and weight; drink alcohol in moderation (meaning no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks for men); get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B if your doctor recommends it; and take medications carefully (take them as directed, and don’t mix them with alcohol). And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.