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3 Ways Liver Disease Shows Up On Your Face

The signs of liver disease aren't just hidden in lab reports or mysterious symptoms; they could be written all over your face – literally. So, grab a mirror and get ready to decode the liver-eye connection with us.

It's worth noting that there is a correlation between liver disease and sugar, as we know too much of the sweet stuff can lead to the development of visceral fat, promoting a fatty liver. 

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What is the Liver-Eye Connection?

The liver-eye connection refers to the relationship between the health of the liver and certain conditions that manifest in the eyes. This connection is rooted in the physiology of the human body and understanding it can provide insights into overall health and potential health issues as liver dysfunction can be a sign of underlying liver diseases:

  • Fatty liver disease (Including Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease)
  • Hepatitis
  • Cirrhosis
  • Liver cancer

Here's a breakdown of the science behind it and how it can be used as a hidden look into our health:

Blood Circulation: The liver is a vital organ responsible for detoxification, metabolism, and the storage of nutrients. It receives blood from the digestive system via the portal vein, which carries nutrients, toxins, and waste products. The liver filters and processes this blood, removing toxins and converting nutrients into forms that can be used by the body or stored for later use.

Liver Health and Eye Health: Liver health affects overall systemic health, including the health of the eyes - it's why our face can be a hidden map to our internal organs. The liver plays a crucial role in maintaining proper blood circulation and preventing the accumulation of toxins in the body. Dysfunction in the liver can lead to various health issues, including those that manifest in the eyes.

Let’s take a look at how this connection shows up on your face.

The Eyes Have It

The eyes are the window to your… liver? Doctors say YES. Ever caught yourself in the mirror and thought, "Gee, my eyes look a bit off today"? Well, you might not want to brush it off too quickly. Here are the major red flags to look out for:

Yellow Eyes: Nope, it's not lycanthropy, you can put the horror movies away! Yellow eyes, also known as scleral icterus, are a major indication your liver isn't quite up to par and is struggling to process bilirubin, a yellow pigment produced when old red blood cells break down. Instead of being properly eliminated, bilirubin can build up in your bloodstream, leading to the tell-tale sign of jaundice, including yellowing of the whites of your eyes. So, if you notice your peepers taking on a sunny hue, it might be time to give your liver a little extra TLC.

Under Eye Spots: Ever noticed tiny red or purple dots resembling freckles beneath your eyes? Those little spots might seem harmless, but they could be a subtle warning sign from your liver. Known as petechiae, these minuscule blood spots can occur when tiny blood vessels called capillaries break, allowing blood to leak into the skin. Liver dysfunction can cause a decrease in platelets, the blood cells responsible for clotting, leading to an increased risk of petechiae. So if you're noticing these under-eye dots popping up uninvited, it might be worth getting your liver checked out.

Age Spots: Also known as solar lentigines, age spots might sound like they have nothing to do with your liver. But surprise, surprise—they can actually offer insights into your liver health. These brownish patches often appear on areas of the skin exposed to the sun, including the face and hands. While their exact cause isn't fully understood, some research suggests a link between liver dysfunction and the development of liver spots. So, if you're noticing these spots appearing or darkening, it could be a sign that your liver needs a little extra attention – but first, head down to your doctor to get the 411.

Discolouration and Bloodshot Eyes: Beyond jaundice, changes in the colour of the whites of your eyes can also signal liver issues. Reddish or bloodshot eyes can occur when the tiny blood vessels on the surface of the eye become inflamed or dilated. Liver problems, particularly those related to excessive alcohol consumption or viral hepatitis, can contribute to this inflammation. So, if you're sporting a pair of red eyes that have nothing to do with a late-night cry session over a rom-com, it might be time to consider what your liver has to say about it.

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The Skin Speaks Volumes

Jaundice isn't just about yellow eyes; it's a full-body affair. When your liver can't keep up with its detox duties, bilirubin can cause a golden glow to spread across your skin. Sure, a tan might sound appealing, but this isn't the kind you want to flaunt. From your face to your fingertips, jaundice can give your complexion a distinctly yellowish tint, signalling that your liver needs a helping hand.

Itchy, Irritated Skin: Ever experienced unrelenting itchiness that just won't quit? While dry skin or allergies might be the usual suspects, liver dysfunction can also play a role in this irritating sensation. When your liver struggles to detoxify the body efficiently, toxins can build up in the bloodstream, leading to a condition called pruritus. This persistent itchiness can affect various parts of the body, including the skin, and is often more pronounced in areas with higher concentrations of nerve endings. So if you find yourself scratching your skin raw without relief, your liver might be sending an SOS signal.

Pale or Greyish Skin: Healthy skin often boasts a rosy or golden hue, but when liver issues come into play, that glow can start to fade. Liver dysfunction can affect the production of red blood cells, leading to anaemia, a condition characterized by a reduced number of healthy red blood cells in the body. Anaemia can result in paleness or a greyish tint to the skin, indicating that your liver might be struggling to keep your blood supply in tip-top shape. If you're noticing your complexion losing its lustre, it could be time to investigate what's going on inside your liver.

Spider Angiomas: Spider angiomas, also known as spider nevi or vascular spiders, might sound like something out of a horror movie, but they're actually harmless skin lesions commonly associated with liver dysfunction. These small, red, spider-like blood vessels radiate from a central point and can appear anywhere on the body, including the face, neck, and chest. While their exact cause isn't fully understood, spider angiomas are thought to result from hormonal imbalances and changes in blood flow associated with liver disease – among other causes. So, if you spot one of these eight-legged critters making a home on your skin, it might be worth checking in with your liver.

Puffiness: The Baggage Your Liver Carries

Ever wake up to find your eyes puffy and pillow-smooshed? While a late-night Netflix binge might be to blame for those under-eye bags, liver issues can also play a role if you find its occurring frequently. When your liver isn't functioning optimally, it can lead to fluid retention and swelling, including around your eyes. Preorbital puffiness, or swelling around the eyes, is a common issue that can be more than just an inconvenience—it can also be a subtle indicator of underlying health issues, including liver dysfunction. What causes it?

Fluid Retention: When your liver isn't functioning optimally, it can lead to fluid retention throughout the body, including around the eyes. This occurs because the liver plays a crucial role in maintaining fluid balance by producing proteins that help regulate fluid levels in the bloodstream. When the liver is unable to produce enough of these proteins, fluid can accumulate in the tissues, leading to puffiness.

Decreased Albumin Production: Albumin is a protein produced by the liver that helps maintain the oncotic pressure of the blood, preventing fluid from leaking out of the blood vessels into the surrounding tissues. Liver dysfunction can lead to decreased production of albumin, resulting in decreased oncotic pressure and increased fluid leakage into the tissues, including around the eyes.

Portal Hypertension: Advanced liver disease, such as cirrhosis, can lead to portal hypertension, a condition characterized by increased pressure in the portal vein that carries blood from the digestive organs to the liver. Portal hypertension can cause fluid to accumulate in the abdomen (ascites), but it can also lead to fluid build-up in other areas of the body, including around the eyes.

Oedema: Oedema, or swelling, can occur when there is an imbalance in fluid distribution between the blood vessels and the surrounding tissues. Liver dysfunction can disrupt this balance, leading to oedema, which can manifest as puffiness around the eyes.

So, there you have it—three ways your liver can make itself known without saying a word. From yellow eyes to puffy peepers, your face might just be the ultimate billboard for liver health. Keep an eye out for these signs, and if you spot them, don't panic—just give your liver the love and attention it deserves. After all, a healthy liver means happier eyes and a brighter you!

What to Do Next: Taking Action for Your Liver Health

Don't fret—there are steps you can take to address the issue and support your liver health:

Check in With Your Doctor: First things first, schedule a visit to your healthcare provider. They can perform a thorough evaluation to determine the underlying cause of your periorbital puffiness and recommend appropriate treatment options. Be sure to mention any other symptoms you've been experiencing, as well as any relevant medical history.

Liver Function Tests: Your doctor may order liver function tests to assess the health of your liver. These tests typically include blood tests to measure levels of liver enzymes, bilirubin, albumin, and other markers of liver function. Abnormal results can provide valuable insights into liver health and help guide further investigation and treatment.

  • Imaging Studies: In some cases, your doctor may recommend imaging studies such as ultrasound, CT scans, or MRI scans to evaluate the structure of the liver and identify any abnormalities, such as fatty liver disease or cirrhosis. 

Lifestyle Changes: While medical treatment may be necessary depending on the underlying cause of your periorbital puffiness, there are also lifestyle changes you can implement to support liver health:

  • Avoid Excess Sugar: High sugar intake can contribute to fatty liver disease and liver inflammation. Cut back on sugary foods and beverages, opting instead for whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Limit Alcohol Consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption can damage the liver and exacerbate liver-related symptoms like puffiness. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation or consider cutting back altogether.
  • Quit Smoking: Smoking not only harms your lungs but can also impair liver function and contribute to liver disease. Quitting smoking can significantly improve liver health and overall well-being.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of fatty liver disease and other liver-related conditions. Focus on maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise. 

Follow Up With Your Doctor: After implementing lifestyle changes and undergoing any necessary medical treatment, be sure to follow up with your doctor regularly. They can monitor your progress, adjust your treatment plan as needed, and provide ongoing support for your liver health. 

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2 Responses

I Quit Sugar

I Quit Sugar

May 13, 2024

Absolutely Evi, a great point! There are instances where liver disease is caused by genetic conditions like Wilson disease, hemochromatosis, and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, for which lifelong medical care will be crucial! Of course, lifestyle and environmental factors are always important, but it’s so important to check in with your doctor regularly. xx The IQS Team



May 13, 2024

Liver disease can be linked to genetic issues with methylation – like mine is. So you need to get that fixed otherwise no amount of healthy eating will fix it. It’ll help but not fix it.

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