Liver is a vital organ that is located in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen and weighs about 3.5 lbs. It has several functions in the human body including digestion of food, production of proteins and hormones, breakdown of medications and toxins, storage of sugar in the form of glycogen, fighting off infection to name a few. Any infection or disease can cause liver swelling known as liver enlargement or hepatomegaly.
What Are The Causes of Liver Enlargement?
Liver enlargement could be caused due to various underlying factors and may present with other symptoms such as jaundice, itchy skin, dark urine, pale stools, fever, fatigue, and abdominal pain. The diseases that might lead to them include liver cirrhosis, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), alcoholic liver disease, cancers (liver cancer or metastatic cancer), hepatitis A, B, and C and congestive heart failure. Other causes include lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, hemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease, Gaucher’s disease, toxic hepatitis and bile duct or gall bladder obstruction.
There are certain risk factors for liver enlargement and these include autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic liver disease, obesity, sickle cell disease, cysts and tumors of liver. There are certain lifestyle factors that can also put an individual at a greater risk of developing liver enlargement and those include excessive alcohol consumption, tattoos, blood transfusions, and unprotected sex. People who travel to foreign countries are associated with risks for malaria and liver enlargement. Individuals taking herbs like comfrey and mistletoe may also develop liver enlargement. Certain prescription drugs as well as non-prescription drugs are also related to liver enlargement.
What Are The Symptoms Of Liver Enlargement?
Liver enlargement is a sign of liver disease and generally, there are no symptoms of liver enlargement. Liver enlargement is not a disease, but a symptom of several other conditions or diseases affecting liver. Liver enlargement could be mild, moderate or severe depending on the severity of the underlying cause. In most cases, liver enlargement is associated with the enlargement of spleen too known as hepatosplenomegaly. When liver enlargement is mild, there are no symptoms, but if it is severe, it might be accompanied by abdominal discomfort, with a feeling of fullness along with abdominal pain. When there is an acute enlargement of liver, it might be tender to touch.
How Is Liver Enlargement Diagnosed?
Liver enlargement is diagnosed on the basis of complete medical history as well as physical examination. Other tests will be ordered to confirm the diagnosis as well as to find out the cause of liver enlargement. These include complete blood count and liver function tests to find out whether liver is functioning properly or not. Imaging includes abdominal X-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound of the abdomen. A liver biopsy can also be ordered based on the results and severity of the disease.
Can An Enlarged Liver Go Away On Its Own?
The treatment of enlarged liver depends totally on the underlying cause. Without treating or curing the underlying cause liver enlargement will not go away on its own. Thus, for the enlargement to subside, it is necessary to treat the underlying cause. Liver enlargement does not go away on its own. In the presence of the abusive factor or toxin, the liver enlargement will continue to increase until and unless any measure is taken to remove the toxin. For example, infections like hepatitis C will be treated with medications, liver cancer will be treated with chemotherapy, surgery or radiation, and liver failure/damage will be treated with liver transplant, alcoholic liver disease will be treated with the abstinence of alcohol and other palliative measures, fatty liver will be treated with lifestyle modifications with diet and exercise. For liver enlargement to subside the patient will have to rest and hydrate himself/herself along with eating healthy foods, fruits and vegetables that will help liver heal. The patient will avoid certain foods, drinks (alcohol) and certain medications that harm liver.
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