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Can Liver Problems Cause Walking Problems?

by
author image Sean Flynn
Sean Flynn is a physician in internal medicine, with expertise in nutrition and holistic/complementary medicine. Flynn holds a Doctor of Osteopathy from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, as well as a bachelor's degree in mathematics and chemistry from Franklin & Marshall College.
Can Liver Problems Cause Walking Problems?
Any of a number of diseases may affect the liver. Photo Credit Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images

Liver disease involves a wide spectrum of illnesses and causes. Some common causes of hepatic disease include viral hepatitis, alcoholic liver disease and cancer. Some symptoms that result from liver disease may impact walking or gait function.

Causes of Liver Disease

Liver disease may be a result of many different causes, inherited and acquired. Some inherited forms of liver disease include Gilbert's syndrome, hemochromatosis and Wilson's disease. Viruses, such as those that cause hepatitis, herpes and mononucleosis, also can cause liver dysfunction. Liver disease can also result from alcohol use, medications and blood clots in the circulation surrounding the liver. Also, cancer very commonly spreads to the liver or can originate in the liver.

Symptoms of Liver Disease

Liver disease has a wide array of signs and symptoms. Some patients may experience poor appetite, fatigue and difficulty sleeping. Other symptoms include jaundice, itching, confusion, and swelling of the abdomen and legs. Liver function tests can be evaluated in the presence of these symptoms as well as imaging or a biopsy of the liver.

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Difficulty Walking

Gait dysfunction, or difficulty walking, can occur for several different reasons in those with liver disease. Some patients experience swelling, or edema, in their legs with liver dysfunction, which may make the legs feel heavy and weak when walking. Additionally, when liver disease is advanced, toxins that are normally removed by the liver accumulate in the bloodstream. These toxins cause hepatic encephalopathy, which causes mental status changes and even coma. Patients with this problem often have difficulty ambulating due to weakness and altered levels of consciousness.

Treatment for Gait Dysfunction

Difficulty walking due to leg swelling is usually treated with a diuretic or water pill. Several medications can be given that help the body excrete extra fluid that may accumulate in the abdomen or legs. Compression stockings and leg elevation are also used. In more severe cases of hepatic encephalopathy, several drugs can be given to help rid the body of toxins to avoid confusion and weakness. Physical therapy may aid in regaining balance after setbacks with this disease as well.

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