A diseased liver does not initially cause pain. What sounds advantageous can have fatal consequences. This is why many of those affected only notice a disease when the organ is already severely damaged. Four short checks are therefore important – and six blood values.
Fatigue, loss of appetite, dizziness, itching, abdominal pain – all of these can be signs of a diseased liver. But not everyone who feels tired has to fear a serious illness right away. However, you should always take the following signs seriously and clarify them with a doctor, as there is a high probability of liver damage:
Brown urine is a sign that the liver is not working properly. The cause can be an infection with a hepatitis virus or cirrhosis of the liver. The latter is most often caused by extreme alcohol consumption or a chronic illness with hepatitis B, C or D. Both heavy alcohol consumption over several years and hepatitis viruses cause the tissue of the liver to scar over time and thus limit the function of the organ. Left untreated, it can lead to fatal liver failure.
A yellowish eyeball can also be an indication of hepatitis disease. A lipid metabolism disorder such as Morbus Meulengracht, which puts a strain on the liver, can also be behind it. This disorder is harmless, but it can cause the liver to break down some drugs poorly, such as certain cancer or HIV drugs.
The cause of the yellow color is the so-called bilirubin, a bile pigment. In healthy people, the liver converts it into water-soluble forms, which are then excreted in stool and urine. If this process is disturbed by a diseased liver, the dye accumulates in the tissue.
Another liver disease that shows up in the eyes is Wilson’s disease. In this rare inherited disorder, copper builds up in the liver because the body doesn’t clear it enough. A greenish to brownish ring appears on the cornea. This liver disease must be detected early, otherwise it usually ends fatally.
Various serious diseases can change the shape or color of the fingernails – including cirrhosis of the liver. It can manifest itself in whitish discolored, cloudy fingernails. This is due to changes in the vessels in the nail bed. Such “frosted glass nails” can also occur in diabetes or heart failure.
Our PDF guide explains the most important functions of the liver and how to combat symptoms such as feelings of fullness.
The liver is mostly located in the upper right abdomen. If there is a feeling of pressure there, this can indicate fatty liver. In this disease, the organ is enlarged and can press against the surrounding organs and the abdominal wall. A doctor can palpate an enlarged liver or detect it with an ultrasound.
The unpleasant pressure or a constant feeling of fullness often only occurs when the disease is advanced. This is usually accompanied by tiredness and difficulty concentrating. Obesity or heavy alcohol consumption are the reasons for a fatty liver. It only does serious damage when it ignites.
The symptoms mentioned can indicate a severely diseased liver, but they can also have other causes. If you notice one or more signs, contact your doctor. He can have your blood tested in a lab to find out how your liver is doing.
Important: If none of the symptoms apply to you, it does not automatically mean that your liver is perfectly healthy. The signs and symptoms mentioned often only appear when the disease is at an advanced stage. In the early stages, liver diseases often go unnoticed.
A blood count is therefore also useful for supposedly healthy people in order to detect a disorder at an early stage. The German Liver Foundation has listed the values that play a role in a table. The right column shows the range in which the corresponding blood value should ideally be.
The German Liver Foundation recommends a GPT test in particular. It is “a well-suited screening test, since the GPT can indicate liver damage with a high level of sensitivity”. Because even slight damage to the liver cells increases the GPT value in the blood. This is an enzyme that gets into the blood when the body breaks down liver cells.
The situation is similar with the enzyme GPT. While an elevated GPT value is a relatively clear indication of liver damage, a high GOT value can also be caused by a muscle disease.
GGT is an enzyme found both in the liver and in the mucous membranes of other organs. However, a blood test can only show the GGT in the liver. An elevated value then indicates liver disease or bile stasis. A high GGT value can come about, among other things, if the patient regularly drinks large amounts of alcohol.
The enzyme AP is also found in many organs. An elevated AP value usually indicates a disruption in bile flow.
Scavenger cells in the spleen, liver and bone marrow break down red blood cells. This creates bilirubin. In a healthy body, bilirubin travels from the liver to the bile and intestines and is eventually excreted. If a blood test shows an increased bilirubin value, this process is obviously disturbed. This can be caused by a diseased liver.