If You Notice This in the Bathroom, Get Your Liver Checked, Doctors Warn
This startling change could be a warning sign of liver trouble.
It makes sense that the liver is the human body's largest internal organ; after all, it does some really big jobs. It can also send you a lot of different messages when something is wrong, from stomach troubles to changes in your fingernails. The liver's primary function is filtering blood that comes from the digestive tract, explains WebMD. Other jobs include detoxifying chemicals, metabolizing drugs, producing proteins that aid with blood clotting and other functions, as well as secreting bile that makes its way back to the intestines, says the site.
One warning sign of possible liver trouble is a change that happens in the bathroom. Read on to find out what it is.
Liver disease has many causes.
According to the American Liver Foundation (ALF), five million adults in the U.S. are living with chronic liver disease, and 30,000 people die from liver cancer each year.
"The term 'liver disease' refers to any of several conditions that can affect and damage your liver," says the Cleveland Clinic, noting that liver disease can lead to scarring of the liver, known as cirrhosis. "As more scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue, the liver can no longer function properly," says the site. "Left untreated, liver disease can lead to liver failure and liver cancer."
Liver problems have many different causes, resulting in different types of trouble. Medline Plus lists viruses including hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C as potential causes of liver disease, as well as cancer and inherited factors. Drug and alcohol use can also cause conditions such as fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.
Liver problems may manifest with varied symptoms.
With so many reasons behind liver disease, conditions can manifest with a host of different symptoms. In addition to yellowing of the skin and eyes (known as jaundice), other warning signs include abdominal pain and swelling, itchy skin, chronic fatigue, nausea or vomiting, changes in stool color, and swollen legs and ankles, says Faith Alex, MD, of the National Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities (TASC).
Bile production is a major contributing factor to symptoms of liver disease; people can have "higher levels of bile salt accumulating under the skin, which may cause itching," according to Healthline. Another symptom related to bile production can lead to startling changes in the bathroom.
For more health news sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Watch for this warning sign in the bathroom.
A yellow substance called bilirubin is used to make bile, according to Medline Plus. "A healthy liver removes most of the bilirubin from your body," the site reports. "But if there is a problem with your liver, bilirubin can build up in your blood and get into your urine." This can then lead to orange, or dark-colored, urine.
Orange (or otherwise discolored) urine can be a sign of liver disease, Alex warns. "The diseases that cause orange urine are kidney disorder and liver disorders [such as] cirrhosis and hepatitis. [The urine] changes color to indicate the presence of bile in the urine."
Another bathroom change to notice? "If your liver doesn't make bile normally or if the flow from the liver is blocked, your poop will look pale like the color of clay," says WebMD. "Pale poop often happens along with yellow skin (jaundice)."
Look for coexisting symptoms in addition to changes in urine color.
Changes in the color of urine aren't always caused by liver problems, Alex points out. "Pigments and other compounds in certain foods and medications can change your urine color," she says, citing beets, berries, and fava beans as foods that may commonly affect urine color. "Many over-the-counter and prescription medications give urine vivid tones, such as red, yellow or greenish blue," she adds. Dehydration can also lead to orange urine.
The color of urine that may indicate liver problems can range from clear to brown. An important coexisting symptom to look out for is changes in stool color. "If you have urine that's orange in addition to light-colored stools," this may indicate that bile has entered your bloodstream due to a problem with your liver or bile ducts, Healthline explains.
Scarring of the liver may lead to liver failure, which can be life-threatening. Alex recommends "being vaccinated for hepatitis B, cutting down on alcohol, [and] maintaining a healthy weight and active lifestyle" as ways to help protect your liver from disease.