Dr. Abhishek Yadav, Consultant, Dept of Gastrointestinal Surgery & Liver Transplantation
“Jigar Ka Tukda” is a common aphorism in hindi to address someone who is extremely dear to us, translated to english “Jigar ” is “ Liver”, so it goes without saying how important an organ the Liver is for us. The importance can also be gauged by the fact that a person can not survive without a functioning liver beyond a few hours and unlike other essential organs like the heart, lung , kidney the liver can not be supported by machinery like dialysis machines and artificial heart pumps.
Being as important an organ as it is, many of us are ignorant about the symptoms which tell us that our “Jigar” is not working well. There are hundreds of such signs and tests that doctors can do to look at your liver functions, however below are some that you can pick up yourselves, some of these are subtle and tend to be ignored, and this is the reason why liver specialists usually see patients at an advanced stage of their disease.
Skin and eyes appear yellow (jaundice) – Liver is responsible for the removal of toxic substances from the body, bilirubin is one such toxin excreted by the liver. An unhealthy liver will not excrete bilirubin resulting in its accumulation in the body rendering the yellow colour.
Fatigue and tiredness – Improper functioning of the liver leads to deficiency of essential vitamins and nutrients resulting in easy tiredness and fatiguability.
Itchy skin – Accumulation of toxins in the body is responsible for the itching all over the body and should prompt consulting a liver specialist.
Pain in the abdomen and swelling – The liver is situated in the right upper side of the abdomen, pain and swelling there or all over the abdomen should be consulted with a liver surgeon.
Decrease in appetite and altered taste – Accumulation of toxins and lack of nutrients in liver disease will cause decreased appetite and aversion to food that you usually relish.
Tendency to bruise easily and excess bleeding – The liver is the production house for most substances needed for blood clotting, an unhealthy liver will cause you to bleed easily and excessively. A common presentation could be excessive bleeding for women in their monthly cycles
Swelling of feet and body – Excess water accumulates inside the body in liver diseases thus causing swollen feet and other parts of the body.
Foul breath – The liver excretes ammonia from the body, in the presence of liver disease ammonia is removed through the breath instead of the liver thus making the breath foul smelling.
Black coloured stools – There is a tendency for bleeding inside the intestines in liver disease thus making the stool to be black tarry in colour and foul smelling. This is a feature of serious liver disease and should warrant urgent consultation with a liver specialist.