What Causes Pain In Liver

What Causes Pain In Liver

What Causes Pain In Liver


The liver is an abdominal glandular organ in the digestive system. It is located in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, under the diaphragm and on top of the stomach. The liver is a vital organ that supports nearly every other organ to some capacity.

What Is Liver Pain

Liver pain can take several forms. Most people feel it as throbbing sensation in the upper right abdomen. Liver pain can also feel like a stabbing sensation that takes your breath away. Sometimes this pain is accompanied by swelling, and occasionally people feel radiating liver pain in their back or in their right shoulder blade.

According to the Canadian Liver Foundation, there are more than 100 types of liver disease, and they are caused by a variety of factors, such as viruses, toxins, genetics, alcohol and unknown causes.

When you feel pain that comes from your liver, it’s a signal that there’s something happening in your body that needs to be addressed.

Possible Causes And Associated To Liver Pain Include:

  • Alagille syndrome
  • Alpha 1 anti-trypsin deficiency
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Biliary atresia
  • Cirrhosis
  • Cystic disease of the liver
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Galactosemia
  • Gallstones
  • Gilbert’s syndrome
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Liver cancer
  • Liver disease in pregnancy
  • Neonatal hepatitis
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Porphyria
  • Reye’s syndrome
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Toxic hepatitis
  • Type 1 glycogen storage disease
  • Tyrosinemia
  • Viral hepatitis A, B, C
  • Wilson disease

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one symptom of liver disease is jaundice — yellowish skin and eyes. Liver disease isn’t an uncommon condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 3.9 million U.S. adults  are diagnosed with liver disease.

Cancer Linked Symptoms

The liver’s job is to detoxify and help flush out waste and convert food to nutritional products your body needs. If your liver is being affected by any kind of disease, those processes aren’t being done efficiently.

That means that your body will react by showing signs of toxicity.

Associated symptoms of liver pain may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes
  • Dark brownish urine
  • Swelling in the ankles or legs
  • Itchy skin
  • Loss of appetite

Things That Can Harm The Liver

While some liver diseases are genetic, others are caused by viruses or toxins, such as drugs and poisons. Some risk factors, according to the Mayo Clinic, include drug or heavy alcohol consumption, having a blood transfusion before 1992, high levels of triglycerides in the blood, diabetes, obesity and being exposed to other people’s blood and bodily fluids.

This can happen from shared drug needles, unsanitary tattoo or body piercing needles, and unprotected sex.

Alcohol is big player in liver damage. It is believed that alcohol could possibly change the type of fungi living in the liver, leading to disease, according to a small study published May 22, 2017, in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. If this is true, it could lead to new treatment options.

The findings suggest that “we might be able to slow the progression of alcoholic liver disease by manipulating the balance of fungal species living in a patient’s intestine,” study co-author Dr. Bernd Schnabl, an associate professor of gastroenterology at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, said in a statement.

Treating Liver Pain

The treatment for your liver pain will depend on what’s causing it. Treating your liver disease will probably start with addressing what you eat and drink. This is because the liver is one of the few organs in the body that can repair and regenerate itself.

If you experience liver pain in the morning after a heavy meal or a night of drinking alcohol, drink plenty of water. Try to avoid fatty or heavy foods for a few days, and sit up straight to take pressure off the liver.

If the pain persists for more than several hours, you should set up an appointment with your doctor.

If you’re experiencing nausea, dizziness, or hallucinations in conjunction with liver pain, you may need emergency care.

Other lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and lowering your cholesterol, are other first lines of defense when it comes to treating the cause of liver pain.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is managed almost exclusively by modifying your diet and exercise routine.

Liver Medications

If you experience liver pain, you may be tempted to reach for an over-the-counter painkiller such as acetaminophen. However, you shouldn’t take this type. The liver’s job is to filter out toxins, and taking acetaminophen will only tax the system more, as acetaminophen can hurt the liver.

If the problem with your liver is serious, taking painkillers you have at home could trigger a worse reaction. Once your liver condition has been diagnosed, you’ll probably be prescribed drugs to manage the condition and lessen your pain.

Hepatitis B antiviral drugs exist for treating chronic disease, such as lamivudine (Epivir) and adefovir (Hepsera). In recent years, researchers have found that several courses of an antiviral called Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir) can make the hepatitis C virus undetectable in the bloodstream.

Managing Liver Cancer

If your liver pain is caused by liver cancer, your doctor will advise you how best to stop the spread of your cancer. You’ll most likely need a referral to an oncologist and speedy treatment, as depending on the type, cancer in the liver could be aggressive and grow quickly.

In some cases, the damage to the liver from hepatitis, acetaminophen, or other toxin exposure, cancer, or alcohol will be impossible to reverse. In those cases, your doctor may recommend a liver transplant as your best treatment option.

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This article on "Hkitnob: Health Columns" is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to offer medical advice.