Are you feeling distressed due to enlarged liver? Then, you need to read the article to know the complications associated with the condition and how to tackle them effectively. The enlargement of the liver occurs due to the swelling of the organ. The condition, also referred to as hepatomegaly can occur due to any number of underlying health conditions. You cannot self-diagnose or self-treat the problem. So, take an appointment with your doctor as early as possible. Proper diagnosis can reveal the exact reason triggering the problem. Based on the diagnosis, you can undergo treatment for alleviating the problem.
Many times, you can confuse the liver pain with kidney pain, back pain or abdominal pain. Therefore, to eliminate the confusion and get proper treatment, you need to consult your doctor. At times, serious conditions like cancer can lead to swelling of your liver. It is a life-threatening complication requiring immediate medical assistance. So, you need to seek medical help to diagnose the problem properly and get effective treatment. It will avoid fatal complications, including death. So, never ignore the problem. Take timely action to deal with the issue properly.
What Do You Mean By Enlarged Liver?
Enlarged liver means the big size of the organ. It is not a normal occurrence and points to some underlying health condition. The medical term of the problem is hepatomegaly. Different health problems can result in the swelling of the liver. Do you know that the liver is the largest organ in your body? In normal cases, your liver increases in size as you grow. It grows up to 5 cm every year till you attain 15 years of age. The adult size of the liver can vary between men and women. Liver size also depends on age, body size, and body shape. The normal size of the organ is 10.5 cm for a healthy man and 7 cm for women. When the size increases up to 2 to 3 cm, then you consider it as enlarged.
The liver is one of the most important organs in your body. The organ facilitates many significant functions in your body like:
- Digesting the fats
- Help fight infections
- Store sugar in your body (in the form of glycogen)
- Control your blood clotting
- Produce hormones
- Break down the toxins and medications
- Produce proteins
It is an interesting organ as it can grow back in size. So, you can donate your liver to another person. The liver can grow back to its original size. Even the transplanted liver portion can also grow. So, complications with the organ can affect your body adversely. You need to address the abnormal condition as early as possible. It will help you manage the problem without severe side effects.
Symptoms Of Enlarged Liver
In many people, the enlarged liver may not trigger any symptoms. So, most people never realize any problem or they ignore the simple signs cropping up due to the problem. But, as the disease progresses, your liver swelling can become severe. So, you may suffer from signs like:
- A feeling of fullness
- Discomfort in your abdominal region
- If a medical condition triggers the swelling of your liver, then you can experience other signs like the following:
- Muscle aches
- Yellowing of eyes and skin (Jaundice)
- Itchy sensation
- Abdominal pain
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Abdominal mass
- Increase in abdominal size
- Easy bruising
- Swelling of your legs or feet
When you observe such signs, you need to take an appointment with your doctor. The signs need professional evaluation to determine the underlying health complications. Some signs can indicate a medical emergency. So, you need to go to a hospital immediately when you observe symptoms like:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Jaundice or fever
- Shortness of breath
- Coffee ground/bloody vomit
- Blood in stools
- Tarry/black stools
The symptoms indicate some serious trouble. So, you need to get medical help immediately. Failing to seek a doctor’s attention can result in death.
Causes Of Enlarged Liver
You can find the liver in the upper right quadrant. The football-shaped organ is placed above your abdomen. In most cases, the size of the organ varies with age, sex, and body size. Swelling can occur due to various underlying health conditions. The following conditions can lead to an enlarged liver:
The diseases affecting your liver can cause the swelling. So, the following diseases can affect the largest organ in the body:
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Hepatitis (triggered by a virus like hepatitis A, B, and C or caused due to infectious mononucleosis)
- Alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Amyloidosis (It is the disorder leading to abnormal protein accumulation in your liver)
- Wilson’s disease (It is the disorder resulting in accumulation of copper in the liver)
- Gaucher’s disease (It refers to the disorder caused due to the accumulation of fatty substances in your liver)
- Liver cysts (the condition refers to the fluid-filled pockets in your liver)
- Toxic hepatitis
- Obstruction of your bile ducts or gallbladder
- Noncancerous tumors in your liver (for example, adenoma and hemangioma)
The presence of cancerous cells in your liver can result in the abnormal size of the organ. So the different types of cancers, leading to the condition are:
- Liver cancer
- Cancer affecting other organs first and spreading to the liver
Heart And Blood Vessel Problems
At times, heart problems can lead to swelling of your liver. The issues with your blood vessels can also trigger the swelling. So, the problems leading to the abnormal liver are:
- Heart failure
- Budd-Chiari Syndrome (It causes blockage of hepatic veins that drain the liver)
- Pericarditis (Caused due to the inflammation of the tissue surrounding your heart)
Risk Factors Increasing Your Chances Of Enlarged Liver
You’re more likely to develop an enlarged liver if you have liver disease. Factors that can increase your risk of liver problems include:
Use of Excess Alcohol
When you expose your liver to excess alcohol, it can result in liver problems. It is a known fact that people drinking a huge quantity of spirits can endure damage to their liver.
Large Doses Of Medications/Supplements
Taking over-the-counter medications or supplements for a long duration of time can affect your liver health. The OTC medications/supplements taken without prescription or advice from your doctor can make you prone to problems. So, the large doses of medications or supplements can increase the risk of liver complications.
Acetaminophen or paracetamol is the common medication you have in your home. OTC medications can lead to acute liver failure. The medicine can relieve pain and fever. But, when you accidentally or intentionally take more than the recommended dose of the medication, it can result in liver damage. Many people think that the medicine causes no harm. But, it can result in deadly result due to the large doses. Therefore, you need to maintain caution while using such medications.
Always read the labels on the medications you take. Look for APAP, acetam or acetaminophen in the label. Talk to your doctor if you wish to know the right doses for you. It will help you take the medication in the suggested doses.
You may feel that the natural, herbal products do not cause any harm to your health. But, some common herbs can cause injury to your liver. As your liver filters the toxins from the blood, it can get affected by the natural herbs. The liver breaks the toxins into non-toxic components. But, the herbal components are broken down into dangerous metabolites. It can lead to damage to your liver. Due to the increasing use of herbal and dietary supplements, you can see an increase in people with drug-induced liver injury. Therefore, maintain caution while using herbal supplements, especially the following:
- Black Cohosh
- Ma Huang
When you suffer from infections due to virus, parasite or fungus, it puts you at risk of liver damage. Getting infections due to hepatitis virus can make your liver vulnerable to damage. So, people who have suffered from infection due to Hepatitis A, B or C need to maintain caution.
Bad Eating Habits
A bad diet can put your health at risk. An unhealthy diet with only processed or junk foods can lead to fat accumulation. You can become overweight, which increases your risk of a liver problem. Therefore, people consuming food with excess sugar or fat can face liver problems.
Diagnosing Enlarged Liver
When you feel discomfort or observe any of the symptoms suggested above, then see a doctor. Your doctor can perform some diagnostic tests to check if you have an enlarged liver or not. The diagnosis also helps determine the underlying cause of liver swelling. The following tests can help your doctor determine the problem:
Your doctor starts the diagnosis by feeling your abdomen. The physical examination can determine the size, shape, and texture of your liver. The physical assessment offers only a small idea about the problem. But, it is not enough to diagnose the abnormal size of your liver. So, your doctor can suggest other tests to determine the problem conclusively. It also helps determine the exact reason causing the swelling of your liver.
It is the test used to detect the liver enzyme levels. The elevated levels of the enzymes can indicate the presence of infection. So, the test helps identify the specific virus that causes an enlarged liver.
Sophisticated imaging techniques use the latest technology to offer a clear picture of your liver. So, the tests like CT scan, ultrasound or MRI can help your doctor detect a problem with the liver. The imaging tests can detect cancer or other reasons leading to the swelling of the organ.
Magnetic Resonance Elastography (MRE)
It is the non-invasive test used to detect the mechanical properties of your liver. It uses sound waves to create elastogram (a visual map). The map depicts the stiffness of your liver tissue. It is the safe and non-invasive option that acts as an alternative for liver biopsy. So, the test can successfully detect chronic liver diseases causing the swelling.
Removing a sample of liver tissue for testing (liver biopsy). A liver biopsy is often done using a long, thin needle that’s inserted through your skin and into your liver. The needle draws out a core of tissue that is then sent to a laboratory for testing.
Treatment Options Available For Enlarged Liver
The treatment of enlarged liver depends entirely on the underlying condition triggering it. So, your doctor needs to diagnose the problem causing the swelling of your liver. It will help come up with an effective treatment plan to manage the problem. The treatment options available to deal with the problem include the following:
If infections like hepatitis C results in the swelling of your liver, then you need medications. Your doctor prescribes medication to treat the infection.
The cancer originating in your liver is a serious condition. You need to get immediate treatment to prevent it from spreading to other parts. The following treatment option is chosen by your doctor based on the severity of the condition:
- Radiation Therapy
Sometimes, the combination of treatment options can eliminate the cancerous cells from your body.
Treatment For Liver Damage
The enlarged liver can result from the organ damage itself. Liver failure can occur suddenly or over a period of time.it is a life-threatening condition, which needs immediate treatment. In most cases, you need a liver transplant to treat the condition effectively.
Treat Source For Metastatic Cancer
In some cases, cancer affects any other part of your body. It spreads to the liver, leading to the swelling. Therefore, your doctor treats the source of cancer. The treatment opted depends on the types of cancer you suffer, the degree of spread, and your overall health condition. So, based on the diagnosis, your doctor can suggest a treatment plan.
Quit Bad Habits
Your liver can experience swelling due to the exposure to alcohol or other recreational drugs for a long time. In such cases, the first steps of treatment involve quitting alcohol and other drugs. Once you make the changes, your doctor can treat you successfully.
The treatment for the swelling of the liver depends on the underlying problem. So, your doctor firsts diagnose the health issue triggering the abnormality.
Lifestyle Changes To Overcome Enlarged Liver
Some cases of swelling of the liver are easily managed with lifestyle changes. So, you can manage the enlarged liver due to fat accumulation or excess alcohol consumption with some modifications in your lifestyle. You need to make changes like:
- Losing excess weight to reduce the fat accumulation in your liver.
- Cutting back the amount of alcohol you consume or avoiding it completely.
- Eat a well-balanced diet to avoid excess weight gain.
So, when you follow the steps suggested above, you can reduce the swelling of the organ without any medical treatment.
Preventing Enlarged Liver
You can definitely prevent abnormal liver. By making some changes in your lifestyle, you can prevent enlarged liver and the complications associated with it. The following pointers suggested below can reduce your risk of liver disease:
Eat A Healthy Diet
You need to include a healthy diet to prevent any issues with the liver. A diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, vitamins, and minerals can keep the organ healthy. So, a good diet can keep off diseases and infections away.
Consume Alcohol In Moderation
Excess alcohol consumption can affect your liver health. Long-term exposure to alcohol can result in scarring or swelling of the liver. Therefore, you need to consume alcohol in moderation. You can talk to your doctor regarding the right amount of alcohol that you can consume without causing any health problems.
While taking medications or supplements, follow the directions provided religiously. You need to take the correct dosage for the suggested period of time. Never increase the dose of the medicines/supplements as it can hurt your liver.
Limit Contact With Chemicals
Long-term exposure to toxins or chemicals can affect your liver adversely. Therefore, you need to use such materials in well-ventilated areas. It will reduce the risk associated with the materials. You need to wear protective clothing like gloves, mask and long-sleeved dress to limit the exposure. Always maintain caution while handling the common toxic materials like:
- Aerosol cleaners
- Toxic chemicals
Maintain Healthy Weight
Obese people can put extra strain on the liver. Therefore, you need to lose weight to reduce the pressure on the liver. You have to limit your consumption of food high in fats and sugar. You can talk to your nutritionist to get a diet plan to lose weight. Including physical exercise in your daily routine can also help you shed excess weight. When you maintain a healthy weight, it reduces the risk of liver problems.
You have seen ads and messages indicating the adverse effects of smoking. Smoking can affect several organs in your body adversely. It can also trigger the problem in your liver. Therefore, you need to quit smoking to safeguard liver health. If you find it difficult to quit the habit on your own, then seek assistance from your doctor. Your doctor can suggest effective strategies to quit the bad habit.
Use Supplements With Caution
If you wish to take herbal supplements, then talk to your doctor about it. A medical professional can assess the risks and benefits associated with taking herbal supplements. Certain alternative medication can harm your liver. So, you need to check with your doctor before including them in your routine.
Avoid Certain Herbs
Some herbs can offer you relief from certain health conditions. But, it can cause adverse reactions to your liver. Therefore, stay away from the following herbs and supplements like:
- Black cohosh
- Ma Huang
- Greater Celandine
Always talk to your doctor before consuming such alternative medications.
The enlarged liver can indicate an underlying life-threatening condition. So, you need to seek treatment to alleviate the problem. With early intervention, you can manage the problem well without any lasting complications. When you fail to seek treatment for severe conditions, it can result in permanent physical damage. So, make an appointment with your doctor if you suspect a problem with your liver. Your doctor can develop an apt treatment based on the underlying condition. Therefore, you can control the symptoms as per your doctor’s advice. Your liver is one of the vital organs in your body. It is essential to maintain its perfect health for a happy life. So, never ignore the symptoms and get medical assistance for any problem associated with the organ.View Article Sources