The skin is the body’s largest organ and a reflection of good health. Sometimes, the sudden appearance of skin discoloration or other irregularities indicate a greater problem stirring inside the body. When liver failure occurs, the skin acts as a major indicator, as one of the most common signs of liver failure is the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes caused by a condition known as jaundice, which can also cause the skin to become itchier. In addition, bruising and the appearance of minor scrapes and cuts that bleed excessively are often indicators of liver failure.
Jaundice is not a disease, but rather an effect of another underlying condition such as liver failure. When the liver fails, it is no longer able to excrete bilirubin, which it normally releases when it receives hemoglobin from the spleen. Due to the liver’s inability to release bilirubin into bile, the yellowish-green-colored bilirubin builds up in the bloodstream, causing skin discoloration. Individuals with very high levels of bilirubin in the bloodstream can have skin discoloration that is slightly brown, but most jaundice sufferers have skin of a yellowish tinge. This condition also may cause lighter colored stool and darker colored urine. Sufferers of jaundice additionally complain of having skin that is intensely itchy to the point that some with the condition try to scratch their skin “raw” and may have trouble falling asleep.
Liver failure is not the only condition that can cause jaundice, as it can also indicate liver disease, bile duct blockage, hemolytic anemia, certain cancers and gallstones.
Susceptibility to Bruising and Bleeding
Liver failure can cause bruises to appear easily and can lead even the most minor injury to result in major blood loss. This is because a damaged liver cannot properly synthesize the proteins that the blood needs to clot properly.
There are other conditions that may affect the blood’s ability to clot aside from liver failure. Certain aspirins and medications known as blood thinners, inflammation of blood vessels, or conditions such as lupus, malnutrition and some forms of cancer can have similar effects as liver failure on the blood’s ability to clot.
Other Indicators of Liver Failure
Due to the serious nature of liver failure and the fact that the symptoms of liver failure that appear on the skin are shared with other conditions, it is best to see a doctor as soon as possible when skin discolorations appear. Other symptoms of liver failure are nausea, fatigue, confusion, weakness and loss of appetite.