Identifying liver disease: the symptoms
People can spend 20 years damaging their liver and not feel any of the effects this is doing to them.
Early symptoms of liver disease can include:
- Abdominal pains
Later stage liver damage symptoms are more serious
They can include:
- Bleeding in the gut
- Easy bruising
- Jaundice (yellow skin)
- Increased sensitivity to alcohol and drugs, both medical and recreational (because the liver cannot process them
- Liver cancer
- Swelling of the legs ankles, or abdomen
- Vomiting blood
- Weakness, loss of appetite7
When you develop cirrhosis, cutting out alcohol is essential to prevent you from dying from liver failure which is when your liver stops working completely. In the most serious cases of cirrhosis, you will only be considered for a liver transplant if you do not drink alcohol for at least three months8
If you start soon enough, you can get back of your healthy liver
Drinking within the government’s low-risk alcohol unit guidelines (drinking no more 14 units a week for both men and women) and spreading those units over three days or more will help keep your risk of developing liver disease low. Reducing the amount you drink can help reverse damage of the earlier stage alcohol-related liver disease.
Visit the British Liver Trust’s Love Your Liver website for tips on how to achieve better liver health and to use their liver Health Check tool.
Once cirrhosis develops, prognosis partly depends on whether or not you continue drinking. Those who continue to drink will feel sicker and die sooner. Even for those with symptoms, stopping drinking has a beneficial effect – it is never “too late” to stop drinking – even with cirrhosis.
Staying in control
You can keep your risk low by staying within the government’s recommended low risk guidance. Here are three ways you can cut back:
- Spread your alcohol-intake out over three days or more. . If you want to cut down, a great way is to spread your drinking out over the days a week. Test out having a break for yourself and see what positive results you notice.
- Eat well.A healthy meal before you start drinking, and low-fat, low-salt snacks between drinks can help to slow down the absorption of alcohol. Good nutrition can help to support your liver to function and plays a crucial role in your health9.
- Keep track of what you’re drinking.Your liver can’t tell you if you’re drinking too much, but the MyDrinkaware drink tracking tool can. It can even help you cut down.