Know the basics

What is enlarged liver?

Enlarged liver, also called hepatomegaly, is an increase in the size of the liver. In some cases, both the liver and spleen become enlarged together, and the resulting condition is called hepatosplenomegaly.

The liver is an organ in the digestive system that assists the digestive process and carries out many other essential functions. These functions include producing bile to help break down food into energy; creating essential substances, such as hormones; cleaning toxins from the blood, including those from medication, alcohol, and drugs; controlling fat storage and cholesterol production and release.

It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of enlarged liver?

Signs and symptoms of enlarged liver include:

  • Pain in the upper right belly;
  • Fatigue;
  • Muscle aches (myalgia);
  • Nausea;
  • Poor appetite and weight loss;
  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice).

Enlarged liver can be due to serious diseases, so failure to seek treatment can lead to serious complications including:

  • Cirrhosis;
  • Hepatic encephalopathy;
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer);
  • Liver failure;
  • Portal hypertension;
  • Spread of cancer;
  • Spread of infection.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What are the causes of enlarged liver?

Your enlarged liver might be due to one of these causes:

Inflammation or fatty liver

  • Obesity;
  • An infection;
  • Some medications or alcohol;
  • Toxins;
  • Certain types of hepatitis;
  • Autoimmune disease (your body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue);
  • Metabolic syndrome (a group of risks for heart disease that includes high blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels, and belly fat);
  • Genetic disorders that cause fat, protein, or other substances to build up.

Abnormal growths may cause an enlarged liver

  • Cysts;
  • Tumors that start in or spread to the liver.

A problem with blood flow

  • Congestive heart failure, a condition where the heart doesn’t pump blood well;
  • Hepatic vein thrombosis, a blockage of veins in your liver.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for enlarged liver?

Factors that may increase your risk of liver problems include:

  • Excessive alcohol use;
  • Large doses of medicines, vitamins or supplements;
  • Medicinal herbs.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is enlarged liver diagnosed?

Generally, your doctor will do a physical exam to see if your liver is larger than it should be. Some blood tests can be carried out to investigate the cause. In addition, your doctor may also order some images to get a better look at your liver including:

  • CT scan, which is a powerful X-ray;
  • MRI, which uses powerful magnets and radio waves;
  • Ultrasound, which uses sound waves.

How is enlarged liver treated?

Your treatment options depend on the underlying disorders that cause your liver enlargement. Some of the treatments your doctor will recommend may include:

  • Medications and treatments for liver failure or infections like hepatitis C;
  • Chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation for liver cancer;
  • A liver transplant for liver damage;
  • Treating the source for metastatic cancer;
  • Treatment for lymphoma or leukemia, depending upon the type, degree of spread, and your general health;
  • Quitting alcohol or any others drugs.

Once your doctor confirms hepatomegaly, they’ll usually recommend lifestyle changes for your liver health, including:

  • Refraining from drinking alcohol;
  • Eating a healthy diet;
  • Engaging in regular exercise;
  • Losing weight if you are overweight.

 

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage enlarged liver?

Since there are many lifestyle factors that can cause hepatomegaly, managing these factors can decrease your risk for an enlarged liver, such as:

  • Follow a healthy lifestyle and maintain a healthy weight;
  • Manage your blood sugar if you have diabetes;
  • Limit alcohol consumption or consider not drinking at all. Your doctor will be able to tell you if your intake is excessive;
  • Talk to your doctor before taking vitamin supplements, as they may interact with your liver;
  • Discuss with your doctor any herbal supplements you are considering. Many herbs marketed for anxiety prevention, weight-loss, or muscle-building can damage your liver;
  • Always follow your employer’s recommendations for safely handling if you work around chemicals, such as insecticides or aerosolized cleaners.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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