National Liver Awareness Month will be held in October of 2023, and that means people in Burbank and elsewhere around the country will be actively encouraging others to act early to detect liver disease, so it can be effectively treated. Home health care professionals are knowledgeable of the signs and symptoms of liver disease and provide care to those who have been diagnosed with this condition. Even if you don’t abuse your liver with things like excessive alcohol intake, your liver will generally lose functionality as you age. That’s why it’s important to know what happens to your liver during aging, so you can be better prepared to identify any signs of damage or malfunction. This article contains some of the things you should know about your liver and aging, and what you can do to manage any loss of functionality.
Impact of aging on your liver
Even if you have exercised regularly for years, and have been conscientious about maintaining a healthy diet, your liver function will probably be degraded due to natural aging. Here are some of the biggest impacts that aging can have on your liver:
- bile production and circulation – the production of bile and its circulation around the body decrease noticeably, thereby adding to the likelihood that gallstones will form.
- managing stress – your liver is less able to tolerate stress as you age, so any substances that are toxic to your liver will cause more damage than they would if you were younger.
- liver repair – if any of your liver cells somehow become damaged, they will heal much more slowly for older persons.
- metabolic rate – almost everyone will experience a decreased ability to metabolize a number of substances as they age. This means that drugs will remain in your system longer than they would for a younger person. That in turn, increases the likelihood that you would experience some kind of side effects when taking the drug.
- liver changes – the color of your liver will change as you age, from a light brown to a darker shade. The size and blood flow relative to your liver will decrease during aging, so it also becomes less efficient.
Why it’s important to recognize changes to your liver
It is extremely important to monitor changes in your liver because if anything is amiss, it will be far more treatable in its early stages. Make sure to keep all doctor appointments, especially those that are preventative in nature, and entail blood tests to make sure all vital systems are functioning properly. If liver damage goes undetected, it could lead to harmful health conditions and it might even become life-threatening.
What to look for
There are actually quite a few symptoms that are indicative of liver disease, which is why any questionable symptoms should be discussed with your family doctor. The signs of liver disease are not the same for everyone. However, some symptoms are fairly universal in patients experiencing the beginning stages of some liver disease types. Here is a list of symptoms that may indicate liver disease:
- skin feels itchy much of the time
- bruising occurs more often and more severely than usual
- eyes and/or skin appear yellowish, which is the jaundiced look resulting from liver disease
- noticeable decrease in appetite
- nausea and/or vomiting without being sick
- persistent tiredness or fatigue
- ankles, abdomen, and legs may become swollen for long periods of time
- urine becomes darker
- stool can become bloody, pale, or black like tar
If two or more of these systems become apparent in yourself or an older loved one, it should be discussed with your doctor.
Hepatitis is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. It can easily spread when people come in direct contact with an infected individual. Because your liver swells up from hepatitis. The inflammation caused by hepatitis reduces the liver’s ability to function effectively. For some individuals, hepatitis may not cause any noticeable symptoms. However, there are many cases where hepatitis produces noticeable side effects in a person:
- flu-like symptoms, e.g. muscle aches, runny nose, headaches
- nausea and/or vomiting
- decreased appetite
- dark urine and/or pale stool
- jaundiced look
- aching muscles around the body
- pain in the abdomen
- persistent fatigue or weakness
Because hepatitis can have such a profound impact on your liver function, it is critical that it be identified early and treated early. Any damage done to your liver may not be repairable and could impact quality of life forever.