Liver is the largest vital organ situated below the rib cage, just under the diaphragm in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. It weighs around 1½ kilograms, is divided into two lobes; the right and left, and is protected by the rib cage. It plays an important role in digestion, excretion, metabolism, glycogen storage, production of proteins needed for blood clotting, decomposition of red blood cells, amino acid production, hormone production, and detoxification. This organ facilitates blood purification by the removal of toxins from it. Liver dysfunction, therefore, can result in a buildup of toxins and waste materials in the body, resulting in various health complications.
Liver pain, also known as hepatalgia, is the pain felt in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, just underneath the rib cage. The pain can often be confused with generalized abdominal pain, backache, or kidney pain until and unless it occurs specifically in the right abdomen. Pain in the upper right quadrant may also be caused due to the formation of gallstones, abdominal problems, intestinal ache, or pancreatitis. Hence, it is absolutely necessary to seek medical advice for figuring out the actual cause of the pain.
- Liver cirrhosis- This occurs due to chronic alcohol abuse.
- Fatty liver disease- This condition is characterized by the accumulation of large amount of fat in the liver, resulting in inflammation and pain.
- Other acute or chronic liver diseases, such as liver cancer, toxicity, and hepatitis are also key reasons.
- Autoimmune diseases, Tylenol (acetaminophen) overuse, and certain other diseases, like type 2 diabetes, congestive heart failure, tuberculosis, etc., are the other reasons.
- Irritable bowel problem
- Right lower lung pneumonia
- Turbulence in the bile duct
Liver disorders usually do not exhibit any hepatalgia symptoms in the early stages. Body efficiently manages loss of liver function to a certain extent. Liver cirrhosis and cancer are therefore known as 'silent killers'. Some of the commonly noticed symptoms of liver impairment are:
- Jaundice (skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow)
- Stomach problems like constipation and diarrhea
- Abdominal pain, swelling, and bloating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dark colored-urine
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid heartbeat
- Weight loss
- Itchy skin
- Bad breath
- Joint pain
- High fever
Considering the signs and symptoms of hepatalgia, doctors figure out the exact underlying cause. The patient may have to undergo various tests, such as CT scan, ultrasound, biopsy, etc. Liver pain treatment involves bringing about some lifestyle changes and the use of medications. Simple dietary alterations can help in alleviating the pain quickly and also delay the progression of the disease. Dietary changes, designed to lower hepatalgia, are an important part of the treatment.
Here is a list of a few dietary changes:
- Drink plenty of water (at least 8 glasses) as it helps in getting rid of the accumulated toxins.
- Many herbal medicines help in detoxifying the body which in turn assists in alleviating the pain.
- Flaxseed oil is beneficial for proper liver functioning, as it is loaded with essential fatty acids needed for a healthy liver.
- A high-fiber diet consisting of plenty of fruits and vegetables helps in flushing away toxins. Always keep a high-fiber food list handy for a quick reference.
- Certain drugs or medications may worsen the situation. So, before taking any drugs or medicines, consult your physician.
- Liver cirrhosis may result in high blood glucose levels. Intake of vitamin B1 helps in lowering the blood sugar levels.
- Consumption of vitamin A supplements is necessary in case of liver disorders. Consuming whole food supplements and increasing the intake of vitamin K is also quite beneficial.
- Avoiding alcohol is a must. Animal foods and proteins including dairy and meat should also be avoided. A diet rich in fats and proteins can worsen the situation. Having a high-fiber, low calorie diet is extremely beneficial.
- If the liver has almost stopped functioning, one must opt for a liver transplant surgery.
The symptoms of chronic liver diseases are often misinterpreted or go unnoticed. Therefore, it is necessary to be acquainted with the causes and symptoms. Diagnosis of the disease at an early stage helps in avoiding complications. Serious liver diseases diagnosed during the last stage are difficult to treat. More treatment options are available for diseases diagnosed in the earlier stages. So, people need to observe such symptoms carefully, and if they notice any such indicants, they should immediately consult the physician.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.