The largest internal organ of our body is the liver. The normal liver weighs about 1.5 kg and the size is about 15 cm. The liver carries out many functions of the body like it helps in detoxifying the metabolites, controls protein synthesis and forms various digestive biochemical that are required to digest food. Not only is the digestion process helped by the liver, it also carries out the plasma protein synthesis, helps to store glycogen and decomposes the red blood cells.

If any kind of problem arises in the liver, then immediately problems like bleeding with urination, terrible stomach pains and other complications arise. If the condition aggravates then the sufferer should get treatment either with medicines or by other methods. When the condition becomes more serious, then one needs to get the liver operated and replaced.

Even though liver is considered to be a tough organ, it can only take up to certain amount of pressure while working on digestion or managing decomposition processes. Often the liver when tested is found as enlarged liver or hepatomegaly. There can be several reasons which can cause this.

What is Enlarged liver or Hepatomegaly?

Causes of Enlarged Liver or Hepatomegaly

There are several reasons which can cause enlarged liver or hepatomegaly. The swelling of the liver, which looks like an abnormal mass when pictured (in an X-RAY or scan of the abdomen) can be caused by infection, jaundice, tumors or some disorder in the metabolism.

There are several infections which can cause enlarged liver or hepatomegaly:

  • Malaria increases the body temperature and cause disturbance in the metabolism of the patient and swells up the liver and causes enlarged liver or hepatomegaly.
  • Another cause for enlarged liver or hepatomegaly can be glandular fever.
  • All kinds of Hepatitis like Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C.
  • Infections caused my micro-organisms like amoeba can also cause enlarged liver or hepatomegaly.

Other Causes of Enlarged Liver or Hepatomegaly Are:

  • Biliary cirrhosis may cause enlarged liver or hepatomegaly.
  • Various growths of tumors in the liver, which can be malignant. Even other cancer in your body like leukaemia can cause your liver to enlarge as an after symptom of the illness.
  • Consumption of too much alcohol or drugs can also cause enlarged liver or hepatomegaly.
  • Various metabolic disorders like porphyria, wilson's disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and glycogen storage disease can also be the cause for liver enlargement.
  • Congenital diseases like sickle cell disease or polycystic liver disease can also lead to hepatomegaly.
  • Other illnesses like hunter's syndrome, which affects the spleen and sarcoidosis which gathers up inflammatory cells in the glands can also show results like swollen liver.
  • Gaucher's disease which prevents the body from breaking down the fat in the body to breakdown properly can cause storage of fat on the walls of the liver and swell up the liver.
  • Even congestive heart failure, which affects the chambers of the heart also affects the liver by swelling it up.

Symptoms of Enlarged Liver or Hepatomegaly

The symptoms of the enlarged liver or hepatomegaly are very common and are very prominent enough to reveal that the person is suffering from some kind of liver disease. The symptoms are:

  • Loss of appetite is primary symptom of enlarged liver or hepatomegaly.
  • Loss of weight.
  • Lowering of the metabolism.
  • The patient becomes very tired very soon. He or she doesn't find enough strength to carry out daily activities.
  • Bruises may appear if enlarged liver or hepatomegaly occurs from jaundice.
  • Pain in the abdomen.
  • Stool can be pale in color. Also bleeding can occur with peeing.

How to Tell If Your Liver Is Enlarged?

One should contact a doctor immediately when the symptoms of enlarged liver or hepatomegaly appears, under his or her prescription, you can then go for a sonogram of your full abdomen or do an X-ray of your abdomen. When the images of the tests are blown, in the place of the liver, an abnormal mass shall be seen and that identifies that the liver has swollen up. The upper corner of the liver is just below the rib cage, thus if the liver is swollen , then after taking a deep breath the doctor might be able to feel the swelling of the liver.

What is Enlarged Liver or Hepatomegaly with Fatty Infiltration?

With the fatty infiltration, if the illness is mild, then the liver gets a cover which makes the liver look brighter. Under serious circumstances, the fats that are accumulated in the body due to obesity or diabetes or fatty liver disease and does not break down into simpler compounds gather up around the liver, getting attached to the walls and lobes of the liver and swells it up. This further leads to damaging the liver.

What is Enlarged Liver or Hepatomegaly and Steatosis?

Steatosis occurs when the patient is suffering from enlarged liver or hepatomegaly due to being diabetic, mishandling of food even after being diabetic, lacking the power of proper metabolism or due to obesity. Steatosis refers to the storage of fat in the liver, which damages the liver and weakens it from functioning normally.

Tests to Diagnose Enlarged Liver or Hepatomegaly

The following are the tests to diagnose enlarged liver or hepatomegaly:

  • The medical history of the patient will be checked.
  • Physical tests like liver span measurement.
  • Several blood tests which will reveal the problems in the bile duct.
  • A sonogram and the CT scan of the abdomen.

When all these tests are positive for enlarged liver or hepatomegaly, treatment will start immediately.

Treatment for Enlarged Liver or Hepatomegaly

Oral medicines like prednisone and azathioprine can be prescribed by the doctors if enlarged liver or hepatomegaly is caused due to autoimmune liver disease.

  • Under serious circumstances, dialysis is referred by the doctors which will clean the contents of the liver at regular intervals.
  • In cases like tumors, chemotherapy and radial therapy are done for treating enlarged liver or hepatomegaly.
  • The doctors can choose to operate the patient and replace the liver with the part of a new donated liver.
  • Medicines containing ursodeoxycholic acid is prescribed to remove the excess bile content from the blood.

Diet for Enlarged Liver or Hepatomegaly

Food with high fibrous values, food which are easily digestible, food with low content of cholesterol and fat, boiled food, green vegetables and lots of water makes a healthy diet for a patient with enlarged liver or hepatomegaly.

Home Remedies for Enlarged Liver or Hepatomegaly

  • Immediate change of diet is a good home remedy and can help your liver from getting further damaged.
  • Avoid all kind of junk food and food that contains fat.
  • Avoid any kind of substance abuse or consumption of alcohol or food with high cholesterol.

Recovery Period/Healing Time for Enlarged Liver or Hepatomegaly

The recovery period or healing time can be told by the doctor who is treating the patient. Usually the time taken is a little long since it takes time for the liver to start working again normally after removing the strong illness called hepatomegaly. If you have undergone dialysis or chemotherapy or an operation, you might take further more time to heal than if you were treated with medicines.

Prevention of Enlarged Liver or Hepatomegaly

Preventing of enlarged liver or hepatomegaly:

  • Say no to any kinds of addictions.
  • Avoid outside food which is made of items with high fat levels and oil with high cholesterol.
  • Eat food which are easily digestible and eat healthy.
  • Exercise daily to avoid unnecessary storage of fat.
  • Increase your metabolism level by consuming fibrous food.
  • Get vaccinated on time.

Complications of Enlarged Liver or Hepatomegaly

When enlarged liver or hepatomegaly occurs in the patient, the liver swells up because there are two kinds of deposition and they are the deposition of the non-hepatitic cells and the deposition of the cell contents that have been increased due to the fat like in the fatty liver disease. These then complicate to the vascular swelling and inflammation that occurs due to infection. Due to these, the symptoms of enlarged liver or hepatomegaly like loss of weight, energy and metabolism appear in the patient. These symptoms cause disturbances in the daily life of the patient and he or she would not be able to perform well in the work sphere.

Any disturbances in the liver will complicate the working of all other organs, especially the digestive system. Lack of metabolism and strength will decrease your performance level at your work place. Often dialysis consumes up too much time of the patient and thus your normal life get very shaken.

Prognosis/Outlook for Enlarged Liver or Hepatomegaly

The disease is curable if it had not occurred due to some serious illness, which cannot be cured soon. If your liver is just affected recently then the prognosis is excellent and can be restored back to its original fine form.

Lifestyle Changes for Enlarged Liver or Hepatomegaly

On attending dialysis for enlarged liver or hepatomegaly, you might lose days which could have been productive. Some of the lifestyle changes to adapt are:

  • A total change in the food habit will occur.
  • Exercising will be very important.

Coping with Enlarged Liver or Hepatomegaly

There would be a lot of changes in your life once you are detected with enlarged liver or hepatomegaly. You have to be patient and have to bear through the treatment. Usually the process is quite long, but losing hope will only make it worse. You have to be attentive and obedient about the rules that you will be prescribed to follow for better coping.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: July 18, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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