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what minor symptoms may indicate a sick liver
Sep 29, 2004

Hi,

I am worried about HCC caused by Hepatitis. In many cases, HCC kills the patient within months! So I feel that a yearly liver test may not be sufficient...I would like to know if there are some minor symptoms to watch out for.

As you know, when a healthy carrier experiences any major symptoms of Hepatitis, (like skin turning yellow, upper-abdominal pain, dark urine) chances are his liver is already damaged beyond repair.

But I also heard that some minor symptoms may show up when liver functions are degrading. Don't know if they are true or not:

If one has chronic Hepatitis B or C infection, and his tongue is consistently coated with a white substance, it could mean the liver is not doing a good job of removing wastes in the blood. Or it may simply be poor oral hygiene.

Another question: I heard that itching skin may be a result of the liver's failure to produce chemicals for clearing blood clots in tiny blood vessles. So if you feel itchy all over your body without seeing any abnormality on your skin, chances are your liver is not doing too well. Myth or truth?

Last one: When the liver is producing enough bile, the patient should have brown colored feces. Feces that are yellow or has light color may indicate an unhealthy bowel, or a suffering liver.

Please answer these questions. I promise I will not use this info for "self-diagnosis". I am only curious about these thing that people say all the times. Also, this could help me to note any potential liver problems between my yearly liver function test.

Response from Dr. McGovern

HCC is actually a slow growing tumor and surveillance should be about every 6 months. There are no particular symptoms except for pain and weight loss.

If a person with chronic hepatitis turns yellow, it can mean many different things like acquisition of acute viral hepatitis of another cause, drug injury, failing liver, cancer, etc. In other words there is a long list of things which can do this.

People with advanced liver disease may just experience fatigue and nothing else.

White tongue is very non-specific and not worrisome.

Itchiness can be a sign of certain types of liver disease - yes.

Feces can lighten up and urine can darken when people recently acquire a hepatitis infection. Dr. McGovern



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