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What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Liver?

author image Iva Gutowski
Iva Gutowski is a practicing nurse with health care experience since 2001. She has worked in the hospital setting on medical/surgical floors and critical care units. She has been a writer since 1999. Her experience includes articles for "The Asheville Citizen-Times," "The McDowell News," and "The Old Fort News." Gutowski holds a License Practical Nursing degree from McDowell Technical Community College
What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Liver?
The liver is a vital organ. Photo Credit foie image by guy from Fotolia.com

The liver is a major organ in the body and is responsible for many major functions including detoxification of the blood. Foods, medications and drinks all contain substances that are deemed harmful to the body and the liver is the organ which cleanses these substances out of the blood. There are several symptoms that are often indicative of a bad liver, and these should be discussed with your physician immediately.

Digestive Problems

The liver produces bile which is a necessary substance used by the body in digestion. If someone has or is developing liver problems, a common symptom is digestive upsets. This person may experience heartburn, acid reflux, nausea and vomiting. Additionally, the stomach may become bloated. This is called ascites and the stomach may appear as that of a pregnant woman. Stomach pain often accompanies ascites.


A classic symptom of liver problems is jaundice. Jaundice occurs when the liver is not able to filter out unneeded bilirubin which is a byproduct of broken-down red blood cells. The bilirubin then accumulates in the body and causes a yellow discoloration in the eyes and skin. This discoloration in the eyes will be present in the sclera, or white part of the eye. Observation of the gums and tongue may also show yellow discoloration.

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Liver Spots and Skin Rashes

Many people with a bad liver will develop skin rashes and liver spots. Skin rashes and liver spots can both present anywhere on the body. Rashes are usually pink or red and can be itchy. In some cases, itching is severe while in others there is no itching at all. Liver spots look like a normal rash on the skin, except they have solid light-brown color. Liver spots usually do not itch.

Blood Sugar and Insulin Imbalances

The liver plays a role, along with the pancreas, in blood sugar regulation. Normally the body senses when blood sugar levels are too high and produces natural insulin which then lowers the sugar levels to an acceptable amount. When the liver is damaged, this process does not work correctly. A person with a bad liver may experience bouts of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) to episodes of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Low blood sugar can eventually result in brain death if left untreated, while high blood sugar can result in organ damage, coma and death.

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