The liver, the largest gland in the human body, functions by carrying out metabolic activities as well as balancing homeostasis. It has many functions, like fat digestion, production of bile, regulation of chemicals in the blood, protein synthesis, filtering the blood, removal of toxins from the body, etc.
When its size increases, it is called an enlarged liver. It is also medically known as hepatomegaly. Signs of an enlarged liver indicate an underlying medical problem within the body. The following paragraphs will cover some information related to this condition.
When one is diagnosed with an enlarged liver, people often wonder what the causes are. Many people think that it is a disease that needs to be treated. In fact, it is not a disease, it is actually a sign or symptom of other diseases, like liver disease, cancer, congestive heart failure, etc. There are many reasons that lead to this condition including the following:
- Liver cirrhosis
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Infectious mononucleosis
- Alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Hemochromatosis (too much iron absorption in the liver)
- Amyloidosis (abnormal protein accumulation in liver)
- Wilson's disease (abnormal copper accumulation in liver)
- Gaucher's disease (abnormal fatty substances accumulation in liver)
- Liver cysts (pockets of fluid in liver)
- Hemangioma and adenoma (non cancerous tumors)
- Gallbladder or bile duct obstruction
- Toxic hepatitis
- Metastasis liver cancer
- Primary liver cancer
- Budd-Chiari syndrome (blockage of the liver veins)
- Tricuspid regurgitation
- Congestive heart failure
There are no specific symptoms. This is because the liver does not have any nerves that will help send impulses of pain to the brain. However, the symptoms are seen only when the enlargement is extreme. This causes discomfort in the abdominal area, as the liver presses itself against other organs. This may give out a feeling of fullness.
One may feel extremely fatigued or observe yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. This yellowing may be a sign of jaundice. If the enlargement occurs very quickly, it may lead to tenderness of the liver. The doctor may suspect an enlarged liver by feeling it during a physical examination. He will observe whether the liver is extending below the level of the ribs.
The signs help diagnose the cause. If the liver feels soft to touch, it indicates fatty infiltration, blood congestion, obstruction of bile ducts, or acute hepatitis. In case it feels irregular and firm to touch, it may be a sign of cirrhosis. Liver cancer is suspected if there are distinct lumps felt in the liver.
The treatment depends on the underlying cause. The most common treatment is abstinence from alcohol, loss of weight in case of obese persons, and change in medications, if any. In case of signs due to hepatitis, the patient may be advised to take medication that reduces the inflammation.
Obese people are advised to lose weight if they suffer from nonalcoholic fatty liver problems. Diabetics are advised to control their cholesterol levels as well as blood sugar levels. Chemotherapy and radiation is carried out in patients of leukemia. And those who are chronic alcoholics, should stop drinking totally if they wish to save their liver from further damage.
Liver is a very important organ of our body that continues to function enduring years of torture. Start following a healthy lifestyle to ease some pressure on your liver. Speak to your doctor regarding the correct treatment according to the symptoms of liver exhibited in your individual case.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.