Liver Disease That Causes Itching

Liver Disease That Cause Itching

During winter, whenever we get an itch, we generally attribute it to the prevailing cold weather conditions that are generally very harsh on the skin and sap it of vital moisture. But how would you feel if you come to know that itching of the skin could also be an early symptom of liver disease? Liver, is a vital organ of our body, and helps in digestion and synthesizes proteins. It filters the blood emanating from the digestive tract and supplies it to the rest of the body.

Therefore, it becomes important to take good care of one’s liver to stay healthy. Identify the symptoms which might be the reasons of liver disease, so that you can take treatment at the early stages. Interestingly, itching is one of the signs which can tell you that your liver is not healthy, as there is a liver disease that causes itching. If you’re itching to know more, let’s find out…

Of late, does your skin feel itchy or do you frequently get the urge to scratch your skin? Don’t be content with scratching at the itch or applying an anti-itch cream. Actually most people ignore body itches and only the appearance of skin rashes, gets us rushing to consult a doctor. But, itchy skin can be an early symptom of a liver disease.

Generally, the liver is capable of repairing its damaged cells, by itself. However, after a certain point of time, the damaged cells stop healing – resulting in liver disease known as Cirrhosis. This long-term damage of liver will replace the healthy liver tissue with scar tissue, in a process called fibrosis. This scar tissue damages the usual structure of the liver, which then results in the abnormal flow of blood through the liver. All this, in turn, ultimately affects the liver function. The liver becomes hard and lumpy due to this condition. If you ignore treatment during the early stages of the disease, it is likely to develop into a chronic liver cancer.

Liver Disease That Cause Itching

Initially, you won’t even realise that your liver is getting damaged. However, beyond a point in time, you will begin experiencing a few bizarre symptoms, which will set off alarm bells to take care of your liver.
One of those symptoms is itching or developing itchy skin. Though the reason for itching is not really known, a few medical journals report that itching is caused to due to some substances that accumulate in the blood, when you suffer from Cirrhosis.

Bile is a substance present in the bloodstream, that tends to stagnate, when its free passage is blocked. Not just that, it flows back into the blood and accumulates under the skin, resulting in itching. The liver cells process bilirubin to produce bile which gets excreted through the urine or stool. But when your liver stops functioning, it will lead to bile duct damage which causes bilirubin to accumulate in the blood and make it’s way into the skin, which in turn causes itching. In some cases, this bile duct obstruction causes severe itching.

Though, there is no evidence clinically, few medical journals suggests that along with bile, there is some other substance that acts on brain causing itchy skin. This substance too accumulates in the blood.
The itching generally occurs when the disease is in its early stage and when the liver is in good condition.

When there is some abnormality in the liver, your liver enzymes rise above the normal size. These elevated liver enzymes cause itching which is an indicators of serious liver disease and the cells release the enzymes into bloodstream causing itching.

Also remember that due to liver disease, itchy skin at night is possible. the itchiness of the skin worsens during night-time. Also, some forms of blood cancer can cause itchy skin. Similarly, some cancer treatments too cause itching. In some cases, you could also see rashes erupting on the entire body.

While there is no treatment available for liver cirrhosis, there’s no reason to panic yet as it takes years for the liver to damage severely. Doctors can provide treatment solutions which can control the disease from worsening further. Cirrhosis is a likely fallout caused if you are a heavy alcohol-drinker. Even if you’re not having alcoholic tendencies, cirrhosis can set in if you from viral hepatitis, fatty liver disease, haemochromatosis, autoimmune hepatitis or Wilson’s disease. Changing your lifestyle and adoption of good eating habits, will help you keep Cirrhosis at bay. Never neglect this medical condition, as Cirrhosis increases the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma liver cancer, which is a fatal form of cancer. Surgery and chemotherapy will only increase your lifespan for few years, not cure cirrhosis.

Liver transplantation is the last option when cirrhosis gets worse and the liver stops working due to liver cancer. Transplantation is considered as an option if surgery and chemotherapy are of no use. However, if you are an active alcohol-drinker, doctors will not recommend you for liver transplantation.

Therefore, remember that liver disease causes itching and never neglect itchy skin. Especially, if it is frequent, as this is the foremost symptom of a serious form of liver disease.

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad