Liver pain or liver pain can have various causes, from relatively harmless to serious. The liver is responsible for many functions in the body. With a diseased liver, many things can go wrong, so all kinds of processes in which the liver is involved do not run effectively. This can lead to all kinds of complaints and complications.
For example, prolonged excessive alcohol consumption can cause fattening of the liver and enlarge it over time. Ultimately, the liver can be damaged, causing scar tissue (liver cirrhosis). Many liver diseases and sometimes other conditions can cause liver pain (pain of the liver). Consult your doctor in case of (persistent) liver pain.
Liver functions at a glance
The liver is the largest single organ in the body and can in fact be regarded as one large chemical laboratory, where an estimated 2,500 chemical reactions are involved in the conversion of the nutrients absorbed from the intestine such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into building and fuels, respectively called carbohydrate metabolism, protein metabolism, and fat metabolism.
In addition, the liver produces bile and the liver also has a detoxifying effect of many components supplied by the digestive system. In addition, the liver contains a large amount of blood; about a quarter of the total volume. The liver exerts an influence on the amount of blood circulating in your body through this sponge action.
Liver Pain Location And Symptoms
Where Do You Feel The Pain?
Liver pain is often confused with kidney pain, abdominal pain, or back pain because of the location of the pain. Liver pain is felt in the upper right quadrant below your rib cage. It is usually felt as a nagging or dull pain, but it can also be a sharp pain and sometimes accompanied by back and/or shoulder pain.
Types Of Liver Pain
The nature and location of the pain may vary, and the possible additional signs and symptoms may vary depending on the cause. Liver pain can present itself in several ways:
- dull pain or faint pain in the right quadrant of the abdomen, just below the rib cage;
- sharp, stabbing pain;
- abdominal pain accompanied by shoulder pain and/or back pain;
- pain in the right side of the abdomen that increases when inhaling or coughing;
- pain associated with breathing difficulties.
Other Types Of (Abdominal) Pain And Complaints
It is often no easy task to distinguish liver pain from other types of (abdominal) pain. Many people ignore the initial symptoms until the pain is very severe or other symptoms appear, such as:
- yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes ;Fatigue complaints in liver complaints / Source: Saschamilk, Pixabay
- itching due to a build-up of substances in the blood that slightly stimulate the nerves;
- excessive sweating;
- strong body odor ;
- bad breath;
- red color change of the palm ( palmar erythema );
- spider nevi: bumps surrounded by networks of blood vessels, visible on the skin surface;
- in men’s breast formation ( gynecomastia ) and enlarged testicles;
- dark-colored urine and pale or gray stools ;
- joint pains;
- fatigue ;
- loss of appetite;
- unexplained weight loss;
- nausea and vomiting ;
- swollen abdomen;
- high fever; Normal liver and fatty liver / Source: Alila Medical Media/Shutterstock.com
- increased heart rate.
Possible Causes of Liver Pain or Liver Pain
Liver pain can have the following causes:
A painful liver can indicate a fatty liver. A fatty liver indicates an excessive accumulation of fat in the liver cells. A fatty liver is a reversible process: the fat accumulation disappears as soon as you remove the underlying cause.
Substances that cause a lot of liver damage worldwide are alcohol and paracetamol . Cirrhosis of the liver / Source: Alila Medical Media/Shutterstock.com
Inflammation of the liver (hepatitis) can be distinguished into acute hepatitis (lasting less than six months) and chronic hepatitis (lasting longer than six months). Hepatitis can have a number of possible causes, including infectious viral hepatitis and toxic substances (eg alcohol).
Cirrhosis Of The Liver
Liver cirrhosis is the ultimate consequence of chronic liver disease. In liver cirrhosis, the liver tissue is so badly damaged that it can no longer recover. The damage is irreversible.
Primary Liver Cancer
Cancer that arises in the liver is called primary liver cancer. In addition to pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, liver cancer causes complaints such as decreased appetite, unexplained weight loss, jaundice, gray-white stools and dark urine, swelling of the abdomen due to an accumulation of fluid ( ascites ), nausea and vomiting, spontaneous bleeding as a result of clotting disorders and general malaise and fatigue.
A liver cyst indicates a cavity filled with fluid in the liver. In general, it is a harmless condition, where you do not have to suffer from complaints. If the cyst is very large, or if multiple cysts are present in the liver, pain may be present.
Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (Psc)
PSC is a chronic inflammation of the bile ducts. Biliary congestion and/or inflammation in the bile ducts can cause pain in the right upper abdomen, among other things.
A liver abscess is a collection of pus in the liver, caused by bacteria, fungi, or parasites. You can have more than one abscess. A liver abscess is caused by microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
Problems or conditions in nearby organs can also cause liver pain, such as gallstones, water abdomen (ascites), inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis), pneumonia, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Risk Factors For Liver Disease
Some liver diseases are preventable and associated with lifestyle choices. Alcohol-related liver disease refers to damage to the liver caused by excess alcohol consumption and is due to excessive alcohol consumption. It is the most common preventable cause of liver disease.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection usually spread through the exchange of bodily fluids (for example, unprotected intercourse, sharing needles, and using unsterilized tattoos or body piercing equipment).
Hereditary Liver Diseases
There are liver diseases that are strongly hereditary, which in other words are passed on from parents to their children. Examples of this are Wilson’s disease (a rare, hereditary metabolic disease characterized by copper accumulation in the liver, among other places) and hemochromatosis (iron overload disease).
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Exposure To Chemicals
Long-term exposure to some chemicals can damage the liver. Some drugs can damage the liver when taken in large quantities. Sometimes that happens even at a normal dose.
Medicines can irritate the blood vessels of the liver, causing blood clots (thrombosis). Birth control pills can lead to venous vein thrombosis, especially in smokers.
Research And Diagnosis
Interview And Physical Examination
First of all, the doctor will conduct an extensive interview (anamnesis) about your complaints and take into account your medical history. Liver disease can affect many body systems, including the heart, lungs, abdomen, skin, brain, cognitive function, and other parts of the nervous system. Physical examination often requires examination of the whole body. Blood tests are helpful in assessing liver inflammation and liver function.
Visual Art Investigation
Imaging can image the liver as well as nearby organs that may be diseased. This may include a CT scan, an MRI scan, and ultrasound (sound wave images), which are particularly helpful in assessing the gallbladder and bile ducts. A liver biopsy may be considered to confirm a specific diagnosis of liver disease. Under local anesthesia, a long thin needle is inserted through the chest wall into the liver, where a small sample of liver tissue is obtained for examination under a microscope.
Treatment Of Liver Pain Due To Liver Disease
Each liver disease has its own specific treatment. For example, hepatitis A will go away on its own, but the treatment of hepatitis B may require medication. Patients with gallstones may require surgery to remove the gallbladder. Other diseases may require long-term medical care to manage and minimize their effects. In patients with cirrhosis, medications may be needed to control the amount of protein absorbed in the diet.
The liver affected by cirrhosis is unable to metabolize waste products resulting in elevated ammonia levels in the blood and hepatic encephalopathy ( lethargy, confusion, coma). A low sodium diet and water tablets (diuretics) may be needed to minimize water retention. Liver cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiotherapy. Sometimes a liver transplant is required
Complications Of Liver Disease
Liver disease can progress to cirrhosis and liver failure. Complications associated with liver disease can include increased risk of bleeding and infection, malnutrition and weight loss, and impaired cognitive function. Some liver diseases are associated with an increased risk of developing liver cancer.
Alcohol consumption is the most common cause of liver disease in Europe and North America. The moderate use of alcohol can help reduce the risk of alcohol-related liver disease. The risk of getting Hepatitis B and C can be reduced by limiting the risk of exposure to another person’s bodily fluids. Vaccination is available for hepatitis A and B.
Screening for hepatitis C is recommended in some groups of people who are more at risk for infection. Fatty liver or fatty liver is a reversible condition that can disappear with a few simple changes in daily life, such as promoting a healthy lifestyle including a balanced diet, weight management, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, and exercise. Success is not always assured.
The outlook and results of treatment depend on the underlying condition. With a quick diagnosis and the prompt implementation of adequate treatment, an adapted diet, and a healthy lifestyle, the outlook for most liver diseases is quite good. A number of liver diseases can sometimes cause serious health complications, resulting in the death of a patient.