Liver cysts, also known as hepatic cysts are thin walled, sac-like structures, which may be empty or remain filled with fluid. Hepatic cysts can be as small as 2 mm, and as large as 20 cm. However, they are usually found to be not larger than 2 cm. Hepatic cysts are usually benign, and they do not affect the functions of the liver. But occasionally, they can enlarge and become infected. Such infected hepatic cysts can cause abdominal pain and discomfort in the upper right portion of the abdomen. Almost 5% of the population has been found to be affected by liver or hepatic cysts.
What Causes Cysts on the Liver?
Some liver cysts are congenital, i.e., they are present at birth, though a great majority of hepatic cysts are idiopathic in nature. However, some hepatic cysts can develop due to certain diseases. A few of the most important causes of liver cysts are:
- Hepatic cysts present at birth can be caused by a rare hereditary disease, known as hepatic fibrosis, where irregular scar tissues develop in the liver. The disease can eventually impair the functions of the liver.
- Polycystic liver disease is a congenital disease characterized by the development of hepatic cysts. This condition is more common in people afflicted with polycystic kidney disease, which can impair the functions of the kidneys, and cause renal or kidney failure.
- Choledochal cysts are congenital conditions, where benign cysts develop in the bile ducts.
- A parasite, known as Echinococcus granulosus, can also cause the development of cysts in the liver. The larvae of this parasite enclose themselves in cysts, which are called hydatid cysts.
- Liver cysts can also develop due to cystadenoma. In cystadenoma, individuals can develop cysts in any part of the body, including the liver and the kidneys. This condition is found to be more prevalent in middle-aged women.
- Apart from these, Caroli disease, which is an inherited disorder can cause hepatic cysts. This condition is characterized by the inflammation of the bile duct, and cystic dilation of the intrahepatic bile duct and intrahepatic biliary tree.
Symptoms of Hepatic Cysts
Liver cysts are usually asymptomatic, i.e., they do not produce symptoms, as they are generally benign and very small. The development of large cysts or their enlargement can however, cause some discomforts in the abdominal region. The most important symptoms of hepatic cysts are:
- Abdominal pain, especially in the upper right part of the abdomen
- Some common digestive problems like nausea and diarrhea
- A feeling of fullness in the upper abdomen
- Liver enlargement
- Swelling and discomfort in the upper abdomen
- A sharp pain in the shoulder and the right side of the upper quadrant
- Infections and obstruction of the bile ducts
Treatment of Hepatic Cysts
The treatment of this condition depends on accurate diagnosis. An accurate diagnosis is crucial, as sometimes, liver tumors can look like cysts. Physicians usually diagnose this condition with the help of CT scan, ultrasound, and biopsy. No treatment is required for benign and small cysts that do not cause any discomfort, and do not grow or get infected. However, if they cause pain and other discomforts, medical intervention can be required. Generally, such cysts are removed surgically. If they get infected, then antibiotics can be required.
To sum up, the treatment of hepatic cysts is determined by its underlying causes, and whether they produce any symptoms. Though liver cysts are usually benign, they can lead to certain major complications like infections, bile duct obstruction, bleeding, liver enlargement, and jaundice at times. This condition should be evaluated as soon as possible to rule out the possibility of some life-threatening diseases.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.