Signs liver disease and yes I overlooked them !
Straight up you may not notice the signs liver disease and it is more likely those people who are not close to you may notice it more. Pay attention to casual comments. I certainly wish I had.
To be honest I never would have thought I would have liver disease as a social wine drinker. It hit me straight between the eyes.
At the time I was going through redundancy and on reflection my diet was low carb ( not good with alcohol ) and socially drinking wine. Plus add some genetic factors and that was it.
There was no other story.
I had 48 hours to live. Clearly I am here to tell the tale but the fact is liver disease related to alcohol can go certainly unnoticed if you are not a typical heavy drinker.
I was not in any pain but when you look back it was like the signs were right in front of me. I just was looking in the wrong direction.
It’s important to say here I am not a medical expert so always get advice from your doctor but I always think its worthwhile documenting the signs from my personal perspective.
You only have one liver and you can’t depend on getting a transplant so its not guaranteed, it comes with risks.
I have not added detail but you can access my other article here on the symptoms of liver disease
1 – Your color
The first sign (although I had just come back from Spain) is that I had turned yellow so it was a mix of people saying I looked well and people who said I looked yellow. Of course, we generally always go for the one you want to hear.
Of course, it was not a tan!
Jaundice relates to the amount of bilirubin ( It forms after red blood cells break down in your system) and if It’s high it is because the liver is not able to do its job so your skin color can change in a weird way.
In some cases it can be over a period of time but in my case it seemed to happen very fast.
I noticed it partiality on my face and body. My face was a big giveaway!
The best advice is to ask people who don’t normally see you very often. In fact for me it was a colleague who I had not seen for a while who told me I looked awful whereas people close to me told me how well I looked.
Thank guys. 🙂
Those people you don’t see very often also have a better more detached view of how you looked when they last saw you. It’s very helpful. In fact my hospital team would get me to check my progress by looking in the mirror and I did notice a change over time.
Visitors also told me I looked less yellow which at first seemed odd but I took it as useful feedback as my hospital admission continued.
2 – The color of your pee
It is a very odd topic because it can be a bit awkward and yet I have learned so much about what our urine can tell us. If you’re drinking plenty of water the pee should not be very dark. With liver disease it is very dark indeed, again this was a subject that I ignored thinking I was dehydrated, which of course I probably was.
It’s important to remember alcohol can damage the liver so I now actually look forward to having a pee with it being clear or slightly golden. It’s the little things.
Furthermore, your pee can tell us lots about your body and health so it’s worth paying more attention to, but dark pee certainly for me was a sign that something was wrong.
3 – Eyes
Now people don’t like looking you straight in the eyes. I think it’s a rapport issue so when people say something about your eyes it’s important to act on it.
The trick is to pull your skin around the eyes down so you can really see the white of the eyes. Now I know this can be a bit off-putting for some.
It was for me. But I needed to know.
Get curious, stay calm and just do a check in the mirror. It could of course look like that for many reasons.
I was in a Pizza restaurant in Manchester UK and my partner commented on the whites of my eyes and that they looked a bit yellow. I was being a so called “typical man” so I dismissed it as just being tired.
In reality (and this was a few weeks before I got admitted to hospital) it was the jaundice that was kicking in.
I was eventually admitted with exceptionally high bilirubin levels and my liver health was getting to a critical level. It turned out the color of my eyes was a key factor in my health overall. The eyes are not just key to your soul they can also be the key to your liver!
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4 – Stomach
So your belly button was a bit of an obsession with me as a kid. Firstly, what was it, where did it come from and why did it look so odd.
Perfect questions really for a child.
As time moves on course, we stop looking at our belly button or the size of our stomach but eventually I did look in the most unusual position. Bear with me !
Every time I was lying down in the bath I took a second glance because my stomach was swollen and not as a result of weight either. I walked and exercised every day and apart from the wine I was very healthy.
It was expanding as a result of fluid and what they called “ascites” with the possibility of internal bleeding in my stomach. Little did I know it was related to my liver not functioning!
When I look back I think this was the thing that actually got me to the doctors more than anything else. Triggers are strange.
One of the first things they did in casualty A&E was to drain my stomach of fluid and I was shocked how much fluid was in there. Luckily no blood!
All these signs can be obvious only after the event but I went on to have a full scan on my stomach and I am on anti acid reducers to this day.
5 -Tiredness and swelling
I noticed two things that jumped out before I got admitted to hospital the first one was swelling which I had never had, occasionally after a long flight maybe.
However, my ankles were swelling and I could feel them pushing up against my jeans.
The best way to see how bad the swelling is to put your foot on a cushion lifted up and look down. You can tell immediately if your ankles are swollen.
Now of course there can be many reasons for swelling around the ankles but for me it was so out of the ordinary that I certainly took notice.
The other sign which is not often talked about except on the liver forum is tiredness. I have never really had a definitive answer for this as my energy levels were very low. I fell asleep at moments notice and generally at the wrong time of the day.
However, I have always liked a siesta!
If your energy levels are low it is always good to mention it as one of your symptoms and as I say I have never had a definitive response but for me in my head they are linked.
6 Your weight
If you get diagnosed with liver disease and I hope you don’t, get the help of a dietitian even if they do not offer one. Food is one of the special things that can help or hinder your liver and overall health.
It was like a crash course in what you can eat and keeping my salt intake lower was one of them.
Here is the thing with the symptoms and signs of liver disease that I did not give food a thought and yet in hospital was told I was officially suffering malnutrition. Even the taxi driver told me I should be giving my marathon running a bit of a rest as I looked so thin.
I was given a leaflet with excellent diet advice and had regular updates with a dietitian one-to-one even as an outpatient. It was worth a weight it gold and it is amazing the effect liver disease can have on your body and the importance of eating regularly because you are processing food very differently.
Other symptoms that I did not have included so-called spiders in the skin, not real spiders but they look like them. The other symptom is a rash and itching on the chest. You can get help at the British Liver Trust and they really helped me at the toughest time.
On the upside there is hope if you follow the advice and with cirrhosis of the liver which I have I am getting my next scan and a blood test to make sure I am on track. However, social wine drinking has gone and I am much more wary of signs of liver disease .
Trust me symptoms can appear just like that and you don’t need to be drinking loads to get liver disease. In fact people get liver disease for all sorts of reasons however what we drink alcohol wise is something we can most certainly control !
Tell us your thoughts!
Do you have a story to tell regarding liver disease ? Are you worried about it and did it even cross your mind as a consequence of just social drinking, I always respond to all your comments!