9 Things Your Feet Can Tell You About Your Liver Problems

foot pain leg beauty woman sitting | Things Your Feet Can Tell You About Your Liver Problems | Featured

Liver problems leave some clues behind, but they may be difficult to catch. If you can't drag your feet to the clinic, at least look at it.

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Symptoms of Liver Problems You Need to Watch Out For

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Signs of Liver Problems You Can See

1. Reddish, Brownish Spots on Your Legs

back view man suffering foot pain | liver problems symptoms

What it might tell you: Poor circulation


Check your lower legs for reddish or brownish spots. It may be a sign of poor circulation that could be related to multiple conditions.

The heart pumps blood up to your brain and all that way down to your feet. Because the muscle needs to supply your feet with blood and then bring it back through the vascular system, your feet, furthest from your heart, could be a telltale sign of a problem.

And a sign of poor circulation could mean a problem with your heart or liver.

Symptoms of conditions like diabetes might also manifest in your legs and feet.

Spots on your feet and legs may not immediately mean you have heart, liver, or kidney issues. But they may warrant a visit to your podiatrist. Your doctor will then decide if you need to see a specialist about your symptom.

A podiatrist may also give you advice on proper foot care.

2. Spider Veins

painful varicose spider veins on womans | liver problems signs


What it might tell you: High levels of estrogen

Spider veins, or spider nevus, are a common indicator of a liver problem. These are a red web-like or spidery group of vessels. Unlike varicose veins, spider veins do not bulge.

They may cause some discomfort, but they're not always dangerous. But in some cases, they may be a symptom of cirrhosis.

Patients with cirrhosis tend to have higher estrogen levels.

The vascular system works like a one-way road. And there are valves in your veins to make sure that the blood travels in one direction. But estrogen could weaken the valves. As a result, the blood may back up into the vein. It then causes the vein to swell.

It could be a symptom of cirrhosis, but it may not always point to it. There are other possible causes of spider veins, including:

  • age
  • family history
  • sitting or standing too long
  • obesity
  • pregnancy
  • blood clots
  • hormone therapy

Spider veins on healthy people and pregnant women may not be a cause for concern. But if you are experiencing other symptoms, a visit to your doctor is your first line of defense.

3. Cracked Heels

dry skin on heel cracked treatment | sign of liver problems

What it might tell you: Vitamin deficiency

Cracked heels are dry and flaky. It could be hard to catch them if you often wear closed shoes. But if you do spot them, the next thing you might want to look at is your diet.

One of the functions of the liver is to create and secrete bile. Bile acids or salts absorb fat-soluble vitamins and fats.

Malnutrition is common in people with cirrhosis. It may be because the liver's ability to store and absorb vitamins is damaged. So you may not be getting enough of vitamins A, D, B, and E.

Before self-diagnosing, take a look at your diet. Does your diet include all the essential vitamins and minerals you need?

But if you're experiencing other symptoms, a visit to your doctor wouldn't hurt.

4. Pitting Edema

clinical sign heart failure pitting edema | liver problems symptoms

What it might tell you: Cirrhosis

Pitting edema (swelling) is when you can imprint a dent on swollen legs.

In liver failure, fluids may back up in your veins and spill out your veins. Then the fluids—pulled down by gravity—could travel to and accumulate in your legs. This will cause your legs to swell.

Again, there are some non-threatening causes of edema, including pregnancy or sitting or standing too long.

More serious causes that will require your immediate attention may include:

  • medication
  • obesity
  • congestive heart failure
  • cirrhosis
  • kidney disease

If your edema persists, have it checked out by your doctor. While some cases will go away on their own, some cases may require long-term care.

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5. White Nail Beds

closeup woman feet toes on white | liver problems signs

What it might tell you: Terry's nails

Manicures and pedicures are great. They give you a neater and (literally) more polished appearance. But healthy nails are not just cosmetic.

Healthy nails have a pink nail bed and a white lunula (the semi-circle at the base of the nail). But with Terry's nails, your nail bed may become white and you lose your lunula completely.

It is mostly associated with cirrhosis, chronic renal failure, and congestive heart failure.

There is no treatment for Terry's nails, but it's important to pay attention to them. They could point to serious conditions, and early diagnosis is often key to recovery.

6. Fungal Infections

closeup image podologist checking left foot | sign of liver problems

What it might tell you: Overgrowth of fungus

It may be caused by the overgrowth of Candida naturally found in our bodies.

Liver problems may cause an overgrowth of fungus in your body and may manifest as toenail fungus.

DISCLAIMER: Do not take this as medical advice. This article is only meant to share information. 

Signs of Liver Problems You Can Feel

7. Painful Feet

young man suffering podalgia home closeup | liver problems symptoms

What it might tell you: Peripheral neuropathy related to liver disease

You may feel pain in your feet, or you may feel a numbing or tingling sensation. Your muscles may even feel weaker in the affected area.

Neuropathy is associated with chronic liver disease. Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage. It could affect any part of your body, but it mostly occurs in the hands and feet.

There are many possible causes of peripheral neuropathy, including:

  • diabetes
  • trauma
  • autoimmune infections and disorders
  • kidney disorders
  • hypothyroidism
  • medication
  • vascular disorders
  • chronic alcoholism

And sometimes, your doctor may not understand why you experience neuropathy.

8. Itchy Feet

woman feeling itchy on her feet | liver problems signs

What it might tell you: Pruritus related to liver disease

Do you have itchy feet? Some say it signifies your desire to travel. But it might be your liver booking a ticket to the doctor's office.

Pruritus or itch is a common symptom of liver disease. But it's most common in cholestatic liver disease. Among patients with cholestatic liver disease, 29% experience itchiness or pruritus.

The mechanics of pruritus isn't exactly clear, but there different theories that might explain.

According to the bile salts theory, bile salts collect under your skin, giving an itchy sensation. However, patients with normal levels of bile salts also experience pruritus.

High histamine levels might also cause the itching sensation. But scientists found that high concentrations of histamine don't make pruritus more severe. And antihistamines don't seem to cure them either.

Other causes of pruritus include:

  • cancer
  • chronic renal failure
  • hyperthyroidism
  • diabetes
  • anemia

Signs of Liver Problems You Can Smell

9. Hot or Stinky Feet

woman smelling stinky shoes feet sweat | liver problems symptoms

What it might tell you: Build-up of toxins

The only way your body can detox is through your kidneys and liver. No, the latest celebrity juicing trend may not help.

But with kidney or liver disease, your body's ability to filter toxins is compromised. So with nowhere else to go, it begins to build up in your body. And this may translate to stinky feet.

The smell may remind you of ammonia or rotten eggs.

It may be an embarrassing condition, and it could disrupt your daily life even without a diagnosis of liver disease.

Your Feet and Symptoms of Liver Problems

Your feet say a lot about your overall health. So allow them to clue you in on how your body is doing and drag you to the clinic as needed.

You might not have thought that your liver can get in the way of your pedicure. But your body is a system of systems, and they rarely act alone. And if there's vascular, heart, or liver problem (and they may influence each other), it may manifest on your feet.

Here’s an instructographic guide. Don’t forget to download, save, or share this handy instructographic for reference:9 Things Your Feet Can Tell You About Your Liver Problems

Hear more about the connection between your feet and liver from Dr. Berg:

Liver disease is diagnosed only after a proper examination and tests by licensed healthcare professionals. Even a combination of one or two of these symptoms will not always point to a medical condition.

But where liver problems are concerned, it's best to know what signs to look out for.

Are you experiencing any of these signs?

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