Liver Disease: Expert discusses risks and symptoms
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Liver disease is an umbrella term that describes conditions targeting the large, meaty organ that sits on the right side of your belly. The case of a 44-year-old woman, reported in the journal The Annals of Ibadan Postgraduate Medicine, highlights the importance of paying attention to your toilet habits. One of the first signs of liver damage could crop up when you go for a number one.
While your toilet might be the last place you want to examine, paying attention to any changes in your urine could break the news of a health problem.
In the case of the 44-year-old woman, the dark tint in her pee was one of the first signs alerting of liver disease.
The Nigerian patient experienced choluria, which is considered one of the earliest signs of liver damage that can show up before other symptoms, according to MedLine Plus.
This urine sign is characterised by a dark brownish colour, resembling cola.
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The reason why your pee turns dark comes down to bilirubin – a yellow substance produced during the normal process of red cell break down.
MedLine Plus states: “Your liver uses bilirubin to make bile, a fluid that helps you digest food. A healthy liver removes most of the bilirubin from your body.
“But if there is a problem with your liver, bilirubin can build up in your blood and get into your urine.”
Dark urine often comes hand in hand with other warning signs, pointing to liver damage, including the whites of your eyes and skin turning yellow known as jaundice, according to Science Direct.
The 44-year-old also experienced this yellow sign for four weeks before being admitted to a hospital.
Other warning signs included bilateral pitting pedal oedema – an excess of fluid in the body that causes swelling.
Once you apply pressure to the swollen area, a pit or indentation can form.
The patient also had moderate ascites, which details a fluid collection in spaces within your abdomen.
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The patient’s diagnosis
Following evaluation and tests, the woman’s treatment team diagnosed her with liver cirrhosis that resulted from autoimmune hepatitis.
Cirrhosis describes scarring of your liver caused by long-term liver damage.
What’s worse, the scarred tissue usually prevents your liver from working properly, the NHS warns.
While a majority of liver conditions, ranging from fatty liver disease to alcohol-related liver disease, can cause cirrhosis, the woman suffered from autoimmune hepatitis.
The researchers explained that this liver condition is a non-contagious chronic inflammatory disease.
Fortunately, the patient is now stable with no jaundice following a treatment that included a cocktail of drugs like steroid medication called prednisolone.
What are the symptoms of cirrhosis?
According to the NHS, this serious liver damage may cause a whole array of symptoms including:
- Feeling very tired and weak
- Feeling sick
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of weight and muscle mass
- Getting red patches on your palms and small, spider-like blood vessels on your skin (spider angiomas) above waist level
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- Vomiting blood
- Itchy skin
- Dark pee and tarry-looking poo
- Bleeding or bruising easily
- Swollen legs (oedema) or tummy (ascites) from a build-up of fluid
- Loss of sex drive (libido).
The health service urges seeing a GP if you experience any of these signs; however, cirrhosis might not always show symptoms during the early stages.
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