10 Signs your liver is struggling
Your skin is giving you signs of liver damage
If your forehead seems oily and your pores are larger than usual, your liver could be to blame.
When your skin starts to resemble the above, you shouldn’t overlook these symptoms and, instead, consider the potential liver damage.
As a functional nutritionist and aesthetic skin therapist, I have a wealth of knowledge and expertise to share with you when it comes to your liver function. In order to effectively address your liver problems, it is best to familiarise yourself with the most common types of liver related conditions you need to become familiar with.
Discussing why your liver is sluggish becomes much easier when you’re aware of the terminology surrounding liver conditions.
What influences skin health
Metabolic health is ultimately at the root of every skin concern. Your skin health correlates directly to these three essential metabolic pathways: blood sugar levels, liver function and the gut microbiome. Together, these pathways form and influence your metabolic health.
Understanding the role these three pathways play in your skin health is integral to getting to the root of any issues you may be experiencing with your skin and your overall health.
Metabolic syndrome is a term that is used to describe a variety of conditions that have the potential to put you at higher risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and cardiovascular diseases.
Typically, metabolic syndrome refers to a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension) and obesity. It is estimated that 1 in 3 UK adults over 50 has metabolic syndrome.
Common symptoms of metabolic syndrome include weight gain (particularly around the abdomen), chronic fatigue, low-grade inflammation and a host of other indications. Metabolic syndrome is often the result of poor metabolic health but when it is caught early, it can be managed with a nutrient-high diet and regular exercise.
Those with metabolic syndrome are at a much higher risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), digestive and kidney diseases.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
NAFLD is the umbrella term for a range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat in the liver and it is often seen in individuals who are overweight. A healthy liver is one that contains little to no fat.
Up to 1 in 3 UK adults are said to be in the early stages of NAFLD, which means there’s a small amount of fat in the liver. This stage of NAFLD is not harmful in itself, but if left untreated it can lead to serious damage, such as liver cirrhosis, which I will explain later in this section.
In addition to this, NAFLD can increase a person’s likelihood of developing conditions such as chronic liver disease, digestive and kidney diseases, high blood pressure and diabetes. For individuals with diabetes, the addition of NAFLD increases the likelihood of health problems emerging.
The practice of face mapping stems from the ancient Chinese belief that a person’s skin is a reflection of their overall health. These days, face mapping focuses on dermatology more than anything else, but some of the same principles still stand.
Liver fibrosis is the early phase of serious liver disease. It is technically one of the later stages of NAFLD. This stage of liver disease is diagnosed when inflammation, which causes scar tissue around the liver and nearby blood vessels, is found. At this point of the disease, the liver is still able to function but not as well as it once did.
Cirrhosis is the last stage of NAFLD and tends to be the most well-known stage of the disease. It occurs when the liver shrinks and becomes scarred and lumpy. This damage is permanent and can lead to liver cancer or liver failure if left untreated. There are ways to manage the condition, but as many people know, the most effective form of treatment is a liver transplant.
Both liver fibrosis and cirrhosis take years to develop, but by spotting the early signs of NAFLD and making changes to your lifestyle, you can avoid serious liver disease.
The 10 signs your liver is struggling
In order to identify and treat your sluggish liver, you need to look out for these other symptoms. Some of these symptoms aren’t inherently dangerous but by being aware of them you can reduce your risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
1. Spots Between Eyes And On The Temples
When you experience spots and congested skin between your eyes and on your temples, it can indicate poor liver function. Congestion is characterised by dull, rough, bumpy and generally spotty skin and is a common feature of face mapping diagrams.
2. Oily Forehead Or Deep Wrinkles
When your liver is functioning well, it allows your body to get rid of excess fat through your digestive system as opposed to your skin. Your skin often picks up the slack when your liver isn’t at its best and impurities leave the body through your skin in the form of sebum. As well as making the skin oily, poor liver function can cause the skin to become dry too. For those who have sensitive or dry skin, this can cause further irritation to the skin, leading to flare-ups of conditions like eczema, rosacea and psoriasis.
3. Puffy Eyes
The occurrence of puffy skin around the eyes points to poor lymphatic drainage. The retention of fluid is a common sign of liver disease and can present at any stage, from NAFLD to cirrhosis.
Xanthelasma is a condition wherein yellowish cholesterol deposits form near the corners of the eyes. These deposits predominantly affect women in their forties and above. Although they are harmless, they are often indicative of wider issues, such as NAFLD.
5. Yellow Areas Around The Eyes
This is a much more noticeable sign of liver disease that manifests much more frequently in the later stages. A common sign of jaundice, the yellowing of the eye area occurs when the haemoglobin in the blood breaks down into bilirubin, which your body is unable to clear.
Bilirubin is meant to move from the liver to the bile ducts for your body to excrete, but when this doesn’t happen, it can make your eyes and the areas around them appear yellow.
6. Itchy Feet And Hands
Feeling a little itchy on occasion isn’t a cause for concern but experiencing this sensation over long periods of time can be a sign that your liver isn’t functioning as it should. Your entire body, or specific areas, might be affected but this symptom isn’t one that everyone with liver disease experiences. When paired with other concerns, it’s something you should get checked out.
7. Rosacea Or Psoriasis
The presence of rosacea or psoriasis indicates that your body isn’t absorbing fat-based vitamins as well as it could be. People with NAFLD and metabolic syndrome also have a much higher chance of suffering from the aforementioned skin conditions. Although rosacea and psoriasis are not always markers of metabolic health concerns, if one or both of these conditions develop when an individual is in their forties or fifties, it can be a sign that their liver isn’t functioning efficiently.
8. Pink Or Red Patchy Palms
Pink or red patches on either side of your hands that aren’t itchy or painful are likely to be a condition called palmar erythema. These patches will disappear if you apply pressure to them.
Palmar erythema is caused by dilated capillaries and blood vessels under the skin, which is the reason for patches of redness/discolouration. There are a number of health conditions such as liver disease, thyroid disease (hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism) and some auto-immune diseases that could explain occurrences of palmar erythema. Red palms have also been attributed to metabolic syndrome and NAFLD.
9. Spider Veins
Spider veins can be caused by a build-up of fat in the liver. This fat build-up causes blood to flow slowly or to clot, which impacts blood pressure and leads to the formation of spider veins.
There are many other reasons as to why you might have spider veins, and they become much more likely to form with age. Pregnancy is another common cause of spider veins, as the body works harder during this time to pump blood around the body. If you are diabetic, have an increased risk of having a heart attack, or you have any other form of metabolic health concern, spider veins might be a sign that your liver is struggling.
10. Dark Knuckles Or Dark Skin Near The Knuckles
If you have dark, velvety patches of skin, you probably suffer from acanthosis nigricans (AN). These dark patches of skin typically appear on areas of the body that crease or fold, like the knuckles, neck, elbows, armpits or groin area. AN is the result of rapidly reproducing skin cells and is often associated with the early stages of liver disease.
Your skin health is an indicator of your struggling liver function
To conclude, your skin will often tell you almost everything you need to know to prevent liver disease. If you’re suffering from persistent skin issues that don’t seem to get better, consider it a sign that your liver function has been compromised.
The failure to recognise the aforementioned symptoms as a concern could result in late-stage liver disease, which is incredibly difficult to treat. NAFLD, on the other hand, is easily treatable with changes to your liver health and with a healthy weight you can create healthy liver tissue within weeks.
What can you do if you have signs your liver is struggling
Remember, when it comes to your liver cells – you’re in control!
By understanding what your skin is telling you, you’ll be able to treat your liver function concerns. As long as you’re aware of how the liver disease presents itself, you will be able to understand when your liver is functioning properly.
Your metabolic health affects your entire body and it should be thought of as a priority. By reversing any damage you may have done to your body before it’s too late, you can improve your metabolic health and your liver function with simple lifestyle changes.
NAFLD is not associated with alcohol consumption but alcohol use will only affect your liver and metabolic health.
Losing weight by eating more nutrient-rich foods, high fiber food, amino acids that are lower in saturated fat and exercising more are also effective ways to improve your liver function and overall metabolic health.
One of the best ways to start offsetting poor liver function is to work out your body’s metabolic age. My Metabolic Age Calculator can be used to help determine the state of your metabolic health.
Finally, knowledge is the most powerful tool when it comes to taking charge of your health. If you are worried about your health and liver function and you want to learn more about the importance of your metabolic health, I can help.