Liver pain is not a simple problem. You can feel the pain in the upper part of the abdomen. Most people feel pain radiating from the right-hand side of your body. The excruciating pain can point towards a serious disease, which requires immediate medical attention. You need a healthy liver to fight off infections, clean your blood, and manage your metabolism. Your liver is an exceptional organ as it can heal itself. So, the organ can manage any small problem affecting the normal function on its own, but, some problems can result in the liver unable to perform its function properly. In such cases, you need to determine the underlying problem as early as possible.
Without finding the root cause of the pain in the organ, the condition can worsen. It can lead to life-threatening complications. You can experience pain due to various reasons. So, you need medical assistance to detect the exact reason for the pain you suffer. With proper treatment, you can prevent irreversible damage to the organ. Want to know more about it? Read ahead to gain comprehensive information about liver pain, its causes, and ways to manage them effectively.
What Do You Mean By Liver Pain?
Do you feel a dull throbbing pain or stabbing sensation in the upper right area of your abdomen? Then, it indicates you suffer from liver problems. You can experience liver pain in several forms. In most cases, the pain accompanies other symptoms like:
- Swelling of your abdomen
- Pain in the backside
- Experiencing pain on the right shoulder blade
When you observe such symptoms, it indicates something serious is affecting your health. In normal cases, your liver converts the food you eat into products that helps the body function properly. It also serves as a detoxifying organ. So, when you suffer immense pain radiating from the organ, it indicates a serious health problem. You need to address it early to handle the issue promptly. With proper management of the issue, you can prevent irreversible damage to the organ.
Function Of Liver
Before learning more about liver pain, you need to understand the function of the organ in detail. Only then you can understand the importance of the organ and the need to get medical immediately when you experience pain. The liver is one of the most vital organs in your body. It is the organ in the digestive system that is located on the upper side of your abdomen. It is located exactly on top of your stomach under the diaphragm. Your liver supports mostly every other organ in the body to some capacity.
The liver’s main function is to filter the blood. The blood comes from the digestive tract, your liver filters it and passes it to the other parts of the body. The liver also detoxifies the chemicals as well as metabolizes drugs. The organ also secretes bile that travels to the intestines to aid with the digestion. It also helps make proteins essential for blood clotting as well as other functions of your body.
Meaning Of Liver Pain
Liver pain refers to the discomfort you feel in the upper right area of the abdomen. So, you can experience vague pain under the ribs. At times, the pain can become severe, leading to backache. People can mistake the pain originating from the right shoulder. You can confuse the pain as the pain originating from one of the below organs:
You cannot pinpoint the exact location of such pain. It becomes hard to detect the underlying cause of your pain. So, you need to consult a medical professional to uncover the exact reason for liver pain. Using sophisticated diagnostic techniques, your doctor can discover the underlying cause. The pain can signify liver inflammation or liver problem that affects the functions. The liver problem needs immediate medical attention. Without medical treatment, the condition can worsen, leading to organ damage. It results in irreversible complications. You observe the signs associated with the liver problem only after the condition advances. Therefore, when you feel pain, seek an appointment with your doctor to manage the condition effectively.
Causes Associated With Liver Pain
Liver pain can occur due to several conditions. The possible problem linked to the pain and discomfort are:
Excess Alcohol Consumption
Consuming too much alcohol can put a strain on your liver. Your liver is responsible for breaking down alcohol and flush it out from the body. When you drink it in moderation, your liver can handle it. But, consuming more can cause damage to liver cells. It can even destroy the liver cells causing liver damage.
It is the chronic infection caused by the virus leading to scarring of the liver. Hepatitis can cause inflammation of the liver and triggers adverse symptoms. Hepatitis infection is one of the major causes of liver problems.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
People who do not consume alcohol can also experience liver damage. NAFLD refers to a wide range of conditions that can lead to liver damage. Different problems can lead to the build-up of fat in your liver. In most cases, the problem affects obese people. The excess fat deposited in the liver can cause serious liver damage. You can suffer from cirrhosis and subsequent complications.
It is the condition causing irreversible liver scarring. So, your liver loses its ability to function properly. It does not develop overnight. The organ suffers damage and over some time, it becomes unable to work properly.
It refers to the rare disorder leading to the damage of your brain as well as the liver. The condition can affect anyone at any age. But, it is more common among children. Children who have suffered a recent viral infection are more vulnerable to the problem. So, it affects kids who have recently suffered flu or chickenpox. The problem can result in the accumulation of fatty deposits and cause abnormal liver function.
It is the disorder causing too much iron to build in your body. The condition can result in iron overload. In normal cases, your intestines absorb the correct amount of iron required for your body from the foods you eat. But, when you suffer from hemochromatosis, the intestines absorb too much iron. With no way to get rid of the excess iron, your body can suffer problems. It deposits in your vital organs like the liver. Over time, excess iron deposits can cause cirrhosis of the liver. Therefore, the condition can damage your liver, leading to pain.
Cancerous presence in your liver can trigger pain. In most cases, cancer spreads from the other parts of the body to your liver (metastasis). Cancers that begin in liver cells are less common. So, you can suffer from liver cancer when cancer originating in breast, lungs or colon spreads to the liver. It can cause liver pain and other symptoms. It is a life-threatening condition, which requires immediate medical attention.
The different liver problem can result in pain and discomfort. If you experience pain, then you need to see a doctor for a diagnosis. Liver pain is often confused with pain originating from other areas of your body. So, instead of self-diagnosing the issue, you need to get medical assistance to detect the underlying cause. By talking to your doctor, you can figure out the reason for your agony and get the right treatment to manage the condition.
Commonly Linked Symptoms Of Liver Pain
When you suffer from liver diseases, you can experience severe pain. The pain generated from the right side of your abdomen. The underlying liver diseases can trigger other symptoms in your body. So, apart from liver pain, you can also observe different symptoms like:
- Dark urine
- Nausea or vomiting
- Bloody/Pale/Tar-colored stools
- Weight loss
- Yellowish skin
- Tenderness while touching your abdomen
- Itchy skin
- Swelling in ankles and legs
- Chronic fatigue
- Loss of appetite
In normal cases, your liver detoxifies and flushes out the waste and toxins from your body while converting food into nutritional products. Any type of liver disease can cause a problem with normal liver function. So, your body shows signs of toxicity. When you observe above-mentioned signs along with pain, you need to seek medical help.
Diagnosing Liver Pain
When you suffer from different signs along with abdominal pain, you need to see a doctor. Your doctor can detect the underlying issue and suggest ideal treatment. Therefore, the different diagnostic methods to detect liver problem are:
When you visit the doctor, a physical assessment can provide insight into the pain you suffer. Your doctor can perform a visual inspection of the abdomen and check for inflammation in the upper right quadrant (the location of your liver). You need to answer the question regarding your medical history, lifestyle, and nature of the pain.
Liver Function Test
The doctor can suggest a liver function test. You need to provide a sample of blood for testing in the lab. The blood test can check if your liver functions properly or not.
Imaging tests can provide a comprehensive view of the inside of the liver. So, it helps detect the presence of cysts or tumors that can cause a problem with your organ. The following imaging tests can provide such details:
- CT scan
It is a specialized ultrasound test that helps detect the stiffness of your liver. Based on the test results, the medical professional can confirm the presence of fibrosis or scarring.
The test also known as a stereotactic liver biopsy can detect the presence of cancer in the organ. The doctor uses a thin, long needle to remove a sample of liver tissue. It is extracted using the guidance of radiographic imaging. The sample is checked for the presence of cancerous cells.
When your doctor finds some problem with the liver, you need to get assistance from a specialist. So, you need to see a hepatologist or gastroenterologist to get further treatment.
Treating Liver Pain
In some cases, you can suffer from the pain in the morning after having a heavy dinner. You can also suffer from pain after drinking too much alcohol. In such cases, you can try some techniques at home. It will ease the pressure off your liver and give you relief:
- Avoid fatty foods
- Drink water
- Sit straight
If the pain persists after a few hours, then it means you have some problem with the liver function. If you experience additional signs like hallucinations, nausea, or dizziness, then you need to get emergency care. Depending on the problem diagnosed, you can have the following treatment options:
Diet And Lifestyle Changes
Some of the problems with liver function occur due to what you eat and drink. So, you need to make some changes in your diet and lifestyle. You can follow the pointers suggested below to have a healthy liver.
- Include protein in your diet to reverse the liver damage.
- Stop consuming alcohol as it can cause cirrhosis and liver damage
- Losing weight can keep you healthy and reduce the cholesterol levels
- Include physical exercise in your daily routine to enhance fitness
The steps suggested above can act as the first line of defense while treating the liver problem. It can help manage liver pain caused due to some common problems (like liver cirrhosis or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Medications To Address Liver Pain
Viral hepatitis needs immediate treatment. The liver pain caused due to the problem can make you uncomfortable. But, never use over-the-counter pain relievers to treat the pain. The OTC pain relievers contain acetaminophen, which can only add pressure to your liver, it can cause irreversible damage to the organ. So, never take medications for pain in your liver without consulting your doctor. Your doctor can suggest the following medications to treat viral hepatitis:
- Hepatitis A has no specific treatment. You can only prevent the condition from affecting you. Effective vaccination is available to prevent viral infection.
- Your doctor can suggest complete rest for treating hepatitis B. The doctor also prescribes antiviral agent or other antiviral suppressive therapies to alleviate the condition. You need to abstain from alcohol to prevent further liver damage.
- For patients with hepatitis C, the doctor prescribes antiviral agents. You need to take it with or without Ribavirin to see effects.
Managing Liver Cancer
If you suffer from liver pain due to cancerous presence, then you need immediate treatment. The treatment aims to stop spreading of cancer. You need to see an oncologist for speedy treatment. The treatment is based on the type and severity of cancer. Cancer originating in the liver is aggressive and can grow quickly. So, your doctor can suggest a combination of treatment based on your condition:
- Radiation therapy
With early intervention, you can reverse the damage caused by certain liver problems. But, problems caused by cancer, hepatitis or excess alcohol becomes difficult to cure completely. In such cases, you face the risk of complete liver failure. In such dire cases, your doctor can recommend liver transplantation. During the transplantation, your diseased liver is replaced with another person’s healthy liver (partial or whole).
Prevent Liver Pain
You can prevent several liver conditions by making some changes in your lifestyle. It can avoid pain and discomfort associated with the different liver issues. So, here are some steps you can follow to keep your liver healthy:
Drink Alcohol In Moderation
When you drink too much alcohol, then it can affect your liver adversely. Excess alcohol can change the type of fungi that lives in your liver. So, it can affect the functioning of the organ. Try to limit consuming alcohol. It will prevent liver diseases and subsequent pain.
Hepatitis B is a serious condition that can cause serious problems for your liver. Without appropriate treatment, you can suffer from liver problems and cancer leading to death. So, you need to avoid the following from your life:
- Never have unprotected sex. Sexually active people need to use condoms or dental dam during vaginal, oral or anal sex. Your sexual partner may have hepatitis B without any symptoms. So, you can protect yourself from any complication by using the safety measures.
- Avoid sharing sex toys used by others. Never use it without washing or covering it with a new condom each time you use.
- Drug use is not good for your health. People using recreational drugs must never share contaminated syringes or needles. It can increase the risk of Hepatitis B or HIV/AIDS.
- You must never get a tattoo or body-piercing from unsterilized sources. It can result in nickel allergy or the risk of other complications.
- People working in the medical field need to remain cautious while using medical or dental equipment. You can get the infection by sharing a razor blade, towel, or a toothbrush with infected blood.
- Pregnant women affected by hepatitis B can pass the virus to their unborn baby.
Use Medication Wisely
The drugs you take for an underlying health condition can cause a problem with the organ’s function or damage it. Some drugs, for example, statins can affect your liver. Statins are usually used to treat high cholesterol levels. It can increase the liver enzymes leading to its damage (also known as drug-induced liver damage). But, you may not notice any symptoms associated with the DILI (drug-induced liver damage) at first. So, you continue to use drugs, leading to severe problems. It can trigger several symptoms like:
- Abdominal pain
- The tendency to bruise or bleed easily
You can also experience DILI when you take nutritional supplements, plants or medicinal herbs. Therefore, you need to talk to your doctor about the medicines you take for the underlying health condition. It will help you take the medications wisely.
Maintain Healthy Weight
Excess weight can put a strain on your liver. The fatty deposits can cause buildup in your organ leading to the condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). It mimics the condition caused due to excess alcohol consumption. People with obesity can also suffer from type 2 diabetes. Therefore, you need to lose excess weight. You can achieve the goal by following the pointers:
- Consume food rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. A well-balanced diet will prevent obesity.
- Include physical activity for at least thirty minutes per day to avoid putting on weight.
The lifestyle changes and proper medical assistance can help you deal with the liver problem causing pain as well as other complications.
Liver pain can signify a serious condition that needs immediate attention. You need to see your doctor as early as possible to determine the underlying cause. With proper medical care, lifestyle changes, and diet modification can help you manage the condition effectively. Some liver problems may cause irreversible damage. So, you can only manage the symptoms to a certain extent. Pain in your liver signals a serious problem in your body. You must never ignore or wait for getting medical treatment. Contact your doctor and talk about the symptoms. Your doctor can suggest the appropriate course of action that will help you prevent unwanted complications associated with the disease.
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