Liver disease in children can be caused by infections or congenital defects. Signs and symptoms are sometimes absent in mild cases of liver disease, however, as the disease progresses, they are almost present. If your child exhibits any of the following signs or symptoms, make an appointment with a baby doctor, who may order hepatic blood screening tests and an ultrasound of the liver.
Jaundice refers to the yellowing of the sclera, or whites of the eyes, and the skin. In addition to yellowing, jaundice can also cause itching, burning, and irritation of the skin. Jaundice is caused by the excessive buildup of bilirubin, a pigmented substance secreted by the liver.
During a physical examination, the pediatrician will palpate the liver, which is located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen to determine if it is enlarged or if there is any rebound tenderness. The spleen and gallbladder will also be palpated because they can also become inflamed in the presence of liver disease. Other symptoms that may accompany jaundice and liver disease include poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss.
Concentrated Urine And Pale Stools
Other signs of pediatric liver disease include concentrated urine and pale stools. Concentrated urine may appear deep orange, bright yellow, or tea-colored. In advanced liver disease, the urine may resemble cola. The stools may also appear pale. When this happens, the stools are often referred to as "clay-colored" because the color resembles that of gray modeling clay. The color of the child's stool may also resemble that of a gray cardboard.
Pale stools and severely concentrated urine are often associated with abdominal pain, pelvic pain, lower back pain, fever, diarrhea, and vomiting. If your child has dark urine, the baby doctor will perform a urine test to determine if the discoloration is the result of blood in the urine or bilirubin. Liver disease can cause both blood and bilirubin to be excreted into the urine. If your child's liver disease is the result of an infection, both the urine and stool abnormalities may resolve once the infection has been treated.
If your child develops any of the above signs and symptoms, make an appointment with the pediatrician as soon as possible. If, however, the child is in severe pain, has a high fever, is lethargic, or has bright yellow skin and eyes, seek emergency medical treatment at the nearest hospital. These signs and symptoms may indicate the presence of liver failure and will need to be evaluated quickly. Contact Kitsap Children's Clinic LLP to learn more.