The liver is responsible for many functions of the body. Having an ailing liver means these processes are not effective, and this can lead to further complications. In some cases, liver ailments are fatal. Many liver diseases and other organ conditions can lead to liver pain. Knowing the causes and treatment options will help you better cope with liver pain.
Liver Pain Symptoms
Being one of the most essential organs in the digestion process, the liver is responsible for breaking down foods into energy as well as getting rid of poisons from the blood.
Liver diseases are a collection of disorders, conditions as well as infections. These affect cells, tissues and structures of the liver, which leads to liver damage and even stops the functioning of the liver.
The number of deaths from liver diseases is on the rise in the United States and other parts of the world. These diseases cause liver pain with the symptoms varying depending on the condition.
Liver pain location and symptoms
Liver pain is often confused with kidney pain, abdominal pain, or back pain because of its location. Liver pain is felt in the upper-right quadrant beneath your rib cage. It is usually felt as an ache that is dull, or the pains can be sharp and can sometimes be accompanied by back/shoulder pain.
When to see a doctor
It is important to book an appointment with your doctor in case you experience persistent symptoms and pain, or if you experience symptoms in hepatitis, such as hallucinations, confusion, memory problems, fainting, extreme fatigue, vomiting blood and fever.
Seek medical care immediately if you experience pain in shoulder or in upper right abdomen, along with difficulty breathing, an eating disorder, fatigue, pain with breathing, itchy skin, or pain with coughing.
Causes of Liver Pain
1. Acetaminophen toxicity
When the body is induced with excess acetaminophen it can lead to liver damage. Acetaminophen is a substance contained in a wide range of medications like headache capsules, allergy capsules as well as sinus capsules.
Besides, liver pain, signs include dark urine, itchy skin, whitening of the eyes, skin yellowing, flu like symptoms and abdominal tenderness on the upper right side.
2. Alcoholic liver disease
This is also referred to as liver cirrhosis. This develops over years of excessive intake of alcohol. Signs include confusion, abdominal tenderness and pain, fatigue, excessive thirst, jaundice, fever, nausea, loss of appetite and weight gain. Other symptoms include agitation, dark black or bloody bowel movement, and development of breasts in males, paleness, concentration difficulties, hallucinations and sluggish movement among many others.
Treatment involves discontinuing the use of alcohol, joining self help groups to get help for dependency on alcohol. Taking abstinence medication is also advisable to help keep away from alcohol. Nutrition therapy is also advised. Foods rich in calories, carbohydrates, and proteins are essential. Vitamin supplements are also prescribed.
As a last result, liver transplant is advised. This happens when the liver completely ceases to function and medication is no longer dependable.
3. Primary liver cancer
This condition is caused when liver cells grow abnormally. This liver problem is only detectable after it has reached advanced stages. One can avoid developing this type of liver condition by preventing liver cirrhosis, as well as hepatitis.
Symptoms include enlargement of the liver (which causes liver pain), appetite loss, weight loss, weakness and fatigue, nausea and vomiting, upper right abdominal pain and skin discoloration and white eyes.
Treatments include chemotherapy, radiofrequency ablation, and pure alcohol injection to tumors, liver transplant, cryotherapy or cryosurgery and radiation therapy.
4. Liver cirrhosis
This is the dreaded alcoholic liver disease. Symptoms include abdominal pain, exhaustion, easy bruising, gallstones, cola-colored urine, bleeding in the intestines and esophagus, itchy feet and hands, type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, nausea, liver cancer, medication sensitivity and liver failure among other signs.
Treatment involves managing the symptoms and complications. The cause can also be treated to stop further ailing. Reducing smoking and drinking is also advised. The only cure is getting a liver transplant.
5. Liver cysts
This is a thin walled bubble that is filled with fluid. This condition poses no health risks. If they grow without detection, they cause discomfort and pain in the abdomen's right upper side, infection of the bile duct and enlargement of the liver.
Treatment includes use of nutritional medication to reduce the cysts and in some cases the cysts need to be removed.
6. The fatty liver disease
Having some fat in the liver is considered normal. However, if it exceeds 10%, you may develop the fatty liver disease. The disease is usually hereditary. It is also common in people who are overweight. Victims usually have diabetes, pre-diabetes, high cholesterol and triglycerides. Other causes include
- Inherited or autoimmune liver disease
- Rapid weight loss
- Viral hepatitis
Signs include fatigue, liver failure, loss of appetite, nausea, weight loss, weakness, jaundice, cola colored urine and fluid in the abdominal cavity among others.
Treatment involves eating balanced meals, increasing physical activity and exercising. Staying away from unnecessary medication also speeds up the healing process. In severe cases, liver transplant may be recommended.
7. Liver fibrosis
This is the last stage of alcohol liver disease. It is characterized by fibroids formation and the formation of fibrous tissues, liver scaring and regenerative nodules. Consequently, blood circulation is impeded leading to progressive liver disease.
Signs include exhaustion, abdominal pain, appetite loss, itchy feet and hands, weight loss, weakness, spider like blood vessels beneath the skin, jaundice, legs and feet swelling and dark colored urine.
- Stop alcohol consumption and smoking
- Eat healthy meals, treat infections promptly
- Consume foods low in fat and sodium
- Treat cases of hepatitis
- Avoid recreational drugs and over the counter medications like aspirin and other pain killers
- Exercise regularly.
This is simply the inflammation of the liver causing damage to liver cells. It comprises of hepatitis A to E. Chronic infection of hepatitis B increases the chances of developing liver cancer by 100%. Signs include dark urine, fever, diarrhea, jaundice, general achiness, enlarged liver, malaise, vomiting often as well as mild fever.
Treatment depends on the stage of the hepatitis. Drug therapy is often recommended. Antivirals are also prescribed. Treatment medication has been found to cure at least 80% of the cases.
9. PSC (Primary sclerosing cholangitis)
This is the inflammation of the liver and bile ducts. This leads to the formation of scar tissues and fibrous tissues. Signs are not immediate and may take years to show. They include infection in the bile duct, intense itching, fatigue, cirrhosis signs, jaundice, malabsorption and steatorrhea.
Treatment involves prescription medication to treat itching, infections, malnutrition and bile duct blockage including bile duct surgery. The only known remedy is getting a liver transplant.
10. Other causes
Other than liver diseases, problems in nearby organs can also produce liver pain, including intestinal disorders, gallstones and obstructions.
Take gallstone for example. It is usually accompanied liver cirrhosis, which will cause severe pain in the liver. The pain can also radiate to the back and the shoulder.
Treatment include surgeries to remover the gallstones or medications to dissolve the gallstones.