Liver disease accounts for approximately 2 million deaths per year worldwide. Infection, alcohol use, being overweight and obesity may all contribute to liver damage and dysfunction.

Some of the most common symptoms of liver dysfunction include:

  • Feeling tired all of the time
  • Unexplained loss of appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting or an upset stomach
  • Yellowing skin (jaundice)
  • Whites of the eyes appearing yellow
  • Dark coloured urine
  • Pale stools
  • Tendency to bruise easily
  • Itchy or dry skin
  • Swelling and pain in the legs and abdomen
  • Feeling confused or disoriented
  • Black or tar-coloured stool

Let’s talk about some of the early signs and symptoms of liver dysfunction, as well as some of the signs and symptoms you may experience in a later stage of your diagnosis.


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What is liver dysfunction?


Liver dysfunction refers to the gradual or sudden decline in liver function.

In most cases, the arrival of symptoms associated with liver dysfunction is gradual.

Let’s talk about some of the early signs and symptoms of liver dysfunction, as well as the symptoms that someone who has been living with liver dysfunction may expect to experience later on in the development of the condition.


What are the symptoms of liver dysfunction?


Some of the most common early signs and symptoms of liver dysfunction include:

  • Feeling tired all of the time
  • Unexplained loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting, or an upset stomach

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of chronic liver dysfunction include:

  • Yellowing skin (jaundice)
  • Whites of the eyes appearing yellow
  • Dark coloured urine
  • Pale stools
  • Tendency to bruise easily
  • Itchy or dry skin
  • Swelling and pain in the legs and abdomen
  • Feeling confused or disoriented
  • Black or tar-coloured stool

Let's explain why these symptoms may arise as a result of liver dysfunction issues.


Feeling tired all of the time
Feeling tired all of the time is a trademark that something isn’t quite right with your health. When it comes to liver damage, feeling tired may arise due to the lower volume of oxygen which is also known as hemoglobin in this case, lower levels of oxygen means there is less fuel for essential bodily functions. In cases of moderate to severe liver damage, it is likely that those living with it will experience exhaustion. Liver damage may also be worsened by the fact that insomnia is a common side effect of liver cirrhosis, also known as liver scarring.

Unexplained loss of appetite
An unexplained loss of appetite is common in liver damage. It may be caused by nausea and/or persistent vomiting.

Nausea, vomiting or an upset stomach
Nausea and/or vomiting are a common symptom of liver damage. An upset stomach is a common symptom of liver dysfunction. Those living with liver dysfunction that involves and inability to flush toxins from the body effectively may experience an increased incidence of digestive issues. The build-up of waste products in the body may lead to bloating, cramping, diarrhea and constipation as well as nausea and vomiting as listed above.



Yellowing skin
Yellowing skin, as a result of liver damage often occurs because there is too much bilirubin circulating in the blood. Bilirubin is a molecule that is formed from the breakdown of red blood cells in the body. If there is too much bilirubin in the blood, it may indicate liver damage.

Whites of the eyes appearing yellow
There are a number of health conditions that may lead to the whites of the eyes appearing yellow, in the case of liver damage, the eyes often appear yellow prior to the skin.. Too much bilirubin in the blood may lead to yellowing skin and yellowing eyes.

Dark coloured urine
Dark coloured urine may be caused by the build-up of waste products in the body. This may happen if the liver is damaged to the point where it can no longer carry out a number of functions. If you are living with liver damage, you may have dark coloured urine due to a buildup of bile in the body. If you notice that you have dark coloured urine, it may be related to the liver or can also be a tell-tale sign of dehydration.

Pale stools
Pale stools could be a sign of liver damage, as pale, clay, beige or sand coloured stool may be a sign that your body, most notably your liver is not producing enough bile, or it may not be draining bile properly. Bile makes up part of the colouring of your stool. Everyone may have pale coloured stool from time to time so try not to panic if you notice that your stool is paler than normal, it may be a dietary issue as opposed to the under-production of bile, it can also be related to coeliac disease.

Tendency to bruise easily
There is an increased tendency to bruise if you are living with liver damage due to the fact that blood clotting capabilities are reduced. Clotting factors are essential elements in the blood, however, if the body is producing too little of these, it means that the blood will not clot at optimal rate, without the blood clotting properly, there is an increased likelihood of bruising and bleeding.

Itchy or dry skin
Itchy or dry skin is a common symptom associated with liver disease, and it may become a problem at different stages of the diagnosis.

Swelling and pain in the legs and abdomen
Swelling and pain in the legs and abdomen may be caused by a build-up of fluid. A build-up of fluid caused by liver damage may occur if the liver is unable to produce enough proteins such as albumin. Albumin helps keep fluid in the blood vessels, when there isn’t enough albumin produced by the liver, the fluid can leak out into the surrounding tissues and cause swelling. Fluid accumulation in the legs is called edema, fluid accumulation in the abdomen is called ascites. This is a rare symptom that is often connected to liver scarring or cirrhosis.

Feeling confused or disoriented
A late stage sign of liver dysfunction is hepatic encephalopathy which is a decline in brain function. This occurs in cases of severe liver disease. If the condition gets to this level, it means that the liver cannot remove toxins from the bloodstream adequately. This condition may be long term or short term, but it is one of the most serious symptoms of late stage liver dysfunction.

Black or tar-coloured stool (maelena)
Black or tar-coloured stool could be a sign of liver damage. Again, it’s important to realize that stool colours can change on a regular basis for a number of reasons. If your stool is darker than normal, try not to panic, but do consider speaking with your physician.


If you are experiencing physical symptoms related to liver dysfunction, it’s important to seek out liver function testing options as soon as possible.

Contact your physician if you are feeling extremely unwell. If you suspect that you have liver function issues, why take an at home Liver Function Test with LetsGetChecked. With online results available within one week and on-going clinical support, knowing your health has never been easier.


Written by Hannah Kingston | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Susan O' Sullivan