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Liver Pain Causes

Liver Pain Causes

The causes of liver pain can range from mild infections, hepatitis, to severe diseases like cancer. It is crucial to understand the exact cause and take the appropriate steps in time. Find a brief report of the conditions and diseases characterized by liver pain.
Palmira S
Last Updated: Mar 2, 2018
Did You Know?
According to two smart gentlemen, R. G. Smart and R. E. Mann, the connection between alcohol and liver diseases was recognized 200 years ago. In spite of this knowledge, 2.5 million people die every year due to the harmful effects of alcohol.
Liver, the largest gland and the largest solid organ of the human body, is located in the abdominal cavity just below the diaphragm. It is the site for synthesis of bile, that is required for digestion of fats. It plays a crucial role in various other metabolic and homeostatic processes of the body, including blood sugar regulation, removal of toxic metabolites, etc.

Liver pain is often experienced as a sharp pain in the upper right area of the abdomen. It can be the result of diseases involving trauma, inflammation, infections, as well as different types of liver cancers. The exact cause can be determined by using an array of diagnostic techniques including blood and urine tests, liver function tests, and other pathological investigations combined with imaging studies. Nevertheless, the leading cause behind almost every form of liver disease is alcoholism.
A variety of diseases affect the structural and functional integrity of this indispensable organ. Such diseases, as well as certain conditions characterized by liver pain, have been elaborated below.
It refers to the inflammation of liver due to infections, alcoholism, poisoning, autoimmunity or drug overdose. (However, the term 'hepatitis' more often refers to viral hepatitis.)

» Viral hepatitis - It arises due to hepatitis viruses, namely A, B, C, D and E. In addition to liver pain, other symptoms of viral hepatitis include jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin), loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, fever, muscle weakness and itchy skin.

» Alcoholic hepatitis - Prolonged indulgence in heavy drinking leads to inflammation and irreversible damage of the liver tissues. The symptoms associated are increased thirst, dry mouth, edema, abnormally dark or light skin, memory impairments, aggressiveness, mood disturbances, weakness and tingling sensation in limbs, etc.

» Autoimmune hepatitis - Liver inflammation can arise due to a variety of autoimmune diseases like Graves' disease, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, Sjögren's syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, etc. The common symptoms include uneasiness and discomfort, abdominal pain, nausea, fatigue, fever, etc.

» Toxic hepatitis - The ingestion of toxic chemicals, poisonous foods and herbs, as well as drug and alcohol abuse initiate a variety of mechanisms leading to liver damage. A majority of drugs need to be withdrawn from markets due to their undesirable toxic effects on the liver. Toxicity symptoms include nausea, vomiting, sweating, and rash. Severe cases may involve liver failure, coma or even death.
Fatty Liver Disease
A set of diseases that involve excessive accumulation of fats in liver cells are collectively referred to as fatty liver disease. Such accumulation occurs through the process of steatosis, and often leads to an enlarged liver or even death of liver tissues. Accompanying signs and symptoms include high blood pressure, edema, cirrhosis and liver failure.

Fatty liver can be the result of alcoholism (alcoholic fatty liver disease) wherein excessive metabolism of alcohol in liver triggers increased fat synthesis in liver cells leading to fatty liver. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can be the result of obesity, insulin resistance, malnutrition, glycogen storage diseases, infections, inflammatory bowel disease and certain drugs and toxins.
Liver Cirrhosis
It is the final stage of severe liver diseases, and is one of the leading causes of death in older adults. Nodules of scarred or dead tissue and cells are formed in the liver. The presence of such dead tissue alters the functions of liver, and also compresses the veins within the liver leading to portal hypertension (high blood pressure in the portal vein that carries blood from the digestive organs to the liver). Along with liver pain, edema, nosebleeds and bleeding gums may be experienced.
Liver Cysts
Liver cysts refer to the formation of abnormal fluid-filled sacs in the liver. These are generally asymptomatic and the incidence of symptomatic cases, characterized by pain in the right side of the upper abdominal region and the right shoulder, is only 5% of the total cases. The exact cause of such asymptomatic liver cysts is not clearly known. Polycystic liver disease and certain forms of liver cancer show the presence of such cysts. However, the presence of liver cysts does not necessarily indicate the presence of these diseases.
Liver Cancers
Primary and secondary liver cancers may be the reason behind liver pain if the accompanying symptoms include fatigue, easy bruising, sweats, anorexia and weight loss. Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most commonly occurring primary liver cancer. Secondary liver cancers may arise due to the metastasis of cancerous cells from other tissues or organs to the liver. Liver cancers can be the result of genetic predispositions, alcoholism, hepatitis C, etc.
Although, the precise set of symptoms depend on the underlying cause, the following symptoms are often experienced in conjunction with liver pain.
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Jaundice
  • Excessive sweating
  • Pain in the right shoulder
  • Pain or difficulty while breathing
Symptomatic treatment for liver pain includes the use of hot compress, as well as analgesics and anti-inflammatory medicines. However, to get rid of persistent liver pain, it is essential to treat the underlying cause. In addition, a healthy diet and regular exercise coupled with non-indulgence in addictive habits help to keep liver pain at bay.
A variety of chronic liver diseases arising due to alcoholic and non-alcoholic factors involve liver pain. The symptoms accompanying liver pain as well as the appropriate diagnostic techniques are essential to correctly identify the etiology behind such liver pain.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.
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