Liver pain is often confused with abdominal pain and actual liver pain feels like a discomfort in the upper right abdomen. This condition may involve swelling, liver enlargement, or inflammation. Injury can be the reason for liver pain though some cases are linked to various liver disorders. The liver is a detoxifying organ. Pain over right upper quadrant of abdomen signals that the pain may be caused by liver diseases and symptom must be further evaluated by specialist or primary care physician.
What Does Liver Pain Feel Like?
The job of the liver is to metabolize carbohydrate, fat and protein. Liver is also involved in removal of harmful substances that is absorbed from intestine as well as detoxify some of these ingested substances. The unwanted substances are removed and flushed out in the intestine. These substances are mixed with feces and removed from our body. Liver diseases or injuries results in inadequate function of liver. The body reacts through the signs of toxicity. During examination of liver deep pressure may elicit a stabbing sensation of liver pain that can take away your breath.
Symptoms Caused by Liver Disease.
- Itchy skin
- Loss of appetite
- Dark brownish urine
- Swelling of the ankles or legs
- Yellow skin or yellow eyes.
Causes of Liver Pain
The possible causes of liver pain are.
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Liver cancer
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Reye syndrome.1
Liver disease is not uncommon. Hepatitis, excessive alcohol consumption, and non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases2 are the most common causes and liver pain also indicates Reye syndrome, liver cancer, cirrhosis, and hemochromatosis. Sometimes the pain is also caused due to issues in the gallbladder, kidneys, and the pancreas.
Diagnosis of Liver Pain
Patient is seen by primary care physician or specialist for any of the above mentioned symptoms. Primary care physician or specialist will write down detailed history of all symptoms and then examine the patient. The doctor visually inspects the abdomen and checks for the swelling or any changes in normal appearance of skin that lies above the liver. Examination is performed to find out if liver is enlarged and any signs of increased pain observed during palpation of liver. A blood test and radiological examination performed to evaluate liver function and rule out any signs of liver enlargement.
Radiological studies performed are X-Ray, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) Ultrasonography and CT scan. Radiological studies performed to evaluate any swelling of liver as well as check signs of cysts and tumors. A test called stereotactic liver biopsy may also be performed. Transient elastography is another ultrasound testing which is done to check the liver stiffness for fibrosis or scarring. The doctor may refer you to a hepatologist or gastroenterologist for further evaluation.
What Can You Do About Liver Pain?
Natural Remedies for Liver Pain. Drink plenty of water if you experience liver pain after drinking alcohol. Avoid fatty foods for few days. If the pain persists for several hours, then visit a doctor. If you experience nausea or dizziness along with liver pain, you need emergency care.
Diet and Lifestyle Changes. Liver is an organ that can repair and regenerate itself. A diet that is too low in protein can decrease a liver volume significantly. Lifestyle changes like lowering cholesterol levels, reducing body fat are defenses for treating the causes of liver pain. The non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can be managed by exercise and diet.
Medications to Ease Liver Pain. Once the causes of liver pain are diagnosed, the doctor will prescribe medication that can lower the pain. Drugs for treating hepatitis B exist and researchers have found several antivirals that can make the virus of hepatitis C undetectable in the bloodstream.
Liver Cancer Treatment. If the cause of liver pain is liver cancer, then the doctor may advise how to stop its spread. You may be referred to an oncologist for speedy treatment. Sometimes, the damage to the liver is due to hepatitis, cancer, and alcohol that cannot be reversed. In such cases, the best treatment option is the liver transplant.
Prevention of Liver Pain
To prevent liver pain and liver diseases it is advised to.
- Avoid or drink alcohol at moderate rate
- Get hepatitis vaccination
- Avoid risky things such as sharing the drug needles
- Use medications properly
- Maintain a proper diet and healthy weight
- Get hepatitis screening.
The liver pain conditions seem on the rise. However, the outlook of people diagnosed with the liver disease has changed. With proper medical care, lifestyle modification, and diet, and by managing the body well, liver disease causing liver pain can be managed effectively, though not cured completely. Do not ignore the liver pain signals. Talk to your doctor about appropriate treatment.
A Case of Reye Syndrome Caused by Influenza A Virus.
Nonalcoholic hepatic steatosis. a silent disease
[Article in Spanish; Abstract available in Spanish from the publisher]