Symptoms of liver diseases, like pain and discomfort, are often confused with other problems in the abdomen. So identifying liver pain and associated symptoms is very important, for early detection and treatment of liver conditions.
Usually, liver diseases do not cause any noticeable symptom during the initial stages. As the disease progresses, it causes inflammation of the organ. The enlarged liver exerts pressure on the pain receptors found in its peritoneal covering, thereby causing pain. Such pain may also develop due to other abdominal conditions, which can either affect the liver or exert pressure on the organ’s pain receptors.
Liver Pain: Location and Nature
Liver is found in the upper right quadrant of the abdominal cavity, and diseases affecting this organ may cause pain in that region. The nature of pain caused by liver diseases is often described as a dull ache with some amount of discomfort. Some people describe the condition as heaviness or cramping under the rib cage, in the upper right side of the abdomen. However, diseases of the gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, and other neighboring organs may also cause pain in the upper right side of the abdomen. Sharp, stabbing pain is mostly associated with severe liver conditions, gallbladder diseases, and pancreatic disorders. Understanding the location and nature of liver pain may prove beneficial in identifying the same. Even the associated symptoms have to be evaluated.
Symptoms Associated With Liver Pain
- Back Pain: In most cases, pain in the liver is accompanied with back pain or shoulder pain, especially on the right side.
- Fatigue: This is one of the common symptoms of liver diseases. The degree of fatigue is said to vary with the underlying cause and its severity.
- Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Symptoms of liver diseases include abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, poor appetite, diarrhea, etc.
- Skin Changes: Rash, itching, and brownish blemishes/spots may develop on the skin. Some may develop yellow discoloration too.
- Effects on Eyes: Swelling and itching of the eyes are also common in those with liver diseases. Dark circles may also develop.
- Body Odor: Excessive sweating, offensive body odor, and bad breath are also seen in people with liver diseases.
- Itchy Palms: In some cases, the soles and palms may turn red, itchy, and inflamed.
Apart from the above mentioned symptoms, those with liver pain may also experience difficulty in breathing, pain while inhaling or coughing, discolored urine, pale stools, joint pain, headaches, swollen testes, unexplained weight loss, easy bruising, and ankle swelling. Those with severe symptoms must seek immediate medical attention, to avoid life-threatening complications.
- Rapid heartbeat
- High fever
- Vomiting blood
- Sharp liver pain
- Delirium and hallucinations
- Dark and tarry stools
- Abdominal swelling
- Severe discoloration of skin and eyes
Even though it is very rare for a person with liver pain to have all the above said symptoms, having a few of them could be an indication of an underlying medical condition. The underlying cause could be a liver disease or a medical condition of the neighboring organs. Certain gastrointestinal problems, like ascites can cause pain in the liver. Even diseases affecting the lungs (especially the right one) may cause such pain. The symptoms that accompany liver pain may vary according to the underlying cause.
What Causes Pain in the Liver?
As mentioned above, liver diseases are the most common causes of pain in liver. Most of these causes are serious and life-threatening, if not diagnosed and treated on time.
Hepatitis: All forms of hepatitis cause liver pain and jaundice. Other symptoms are loss of appetite, weight loss, low-grade fever, and fatigue. If left untreated, the condition can worsen and lead to liver failure.
Liver Cancer: Another medical condition associated with liver pain is cancer of the organ, which is usually identified during the last stages. The pain is usually felt in the upper right quadrant. Other symptoms are abdominal tenderness and bloating, fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Fatty Liver: This is a condition, wherein the liver gets enlarged due to fat accumulation. It may also cause liver dysfunction and tenderness. Other symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Liver pain is also not uncommon.
Cirrhosis: The most common symptoms are abdominal pain and tenderness, fatigue, nausea, itching, and loss of appetite. The affected person may also develop jaundice and swelling of the abdomen.
Toxic Overload: This could be a possible cause of liver pain. Other symptoms of the condition are muscle and joint pain, constant fatigue, depression, allergic reactions, etc.
Other liver pain causes include hepatic vein thrombosis, liver abscess, tumor in the liver, liver fibrosis, consumption of alcohol, enlarged spleen, injury to liver, etc. Apart from the above said conditions, gallbladder problems can also cause pain in the upper right side of the abdomen. It is said that liver pain is far more diffused in nature, when compared to the pain caused by gallbladder or pancreatic problems.
Whatever may be the cause, early diagnosis and treatment may prove beneficial to prevent further complications, which could be sometimes life threatening. Liver pain treatment may vary with the underlying medical condition. Usually, urine and blood tests are conducted to find out the exact cause. Even ultrasound scanning and biopsy are suggested in some cases. This is only a brief overview about liver pain symptoms, which could be an indication of underlying diseases and disorders of the organ. As liver is one of the most vital organs in the body, any symptom associated with it must be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.