An enlarged liver isn’t a disease, rather it can be a symptom or sign of another medical condition such as liver disease, cancer, or congestive heart failure. The liver is the football-shaped organ in the upper-right area of the abdomen. The liver is part of a normal body’s functions but when it is enlarged, it can signal other issues within the body. There are common symptoms for people with an enlarged liver, though there might also be no symptoms at all. Someone with an enlarged liver might experience fatigue, nausea and vomiting, yellowing of the skin, white of the eyes, or abdominal pain.
Causes of an Enlarged Liver
Many different diseases and medical conditions can be the cause of an enlarged liver. This includes cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis A, B or C, alcoholic or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, amyloidosis, Wilson’s disease, hemochromatosis, Gaucher’s disease, liver cysts, non-cancerous tumors of the liver, obstruction in the gallbladder, bile ducts, toxic hepatitis, liver cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, cancer that spread to the liver, heart failure, Budd-Chiari Syndrome, or inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the heart. Risk factors for an enlarged liver include drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, taking large doses of supplements or medications, herbal supplements like black cohosh or mistletoe, Hepatitis, poor eating habits, or infections.
Diagnosing an Enlarged Liver
To find out if you have an enlarged liver, a variety of tests will be performed. This usually starts with a physical examination and examining your abdomen. Your doctor is usually able to estimate how large your liver is by feeling how far it extends underneath your rib cage. Other ways to test for an enlarged liver is a blood test, CT scan, ultrasound, MRI, magnetic resonance elastography, or doing a liver biopsy by removing a small sample of your liver tissue to be tested. To treat an enlarged liver, your doctor will usually treat whatever condition you have that is caused the enlarged liver.
Prevent Liver Disease
Anyone with an enlarged liver is at a higher risk for liver disease. If you have been diagnosed with an enlarged liver, there are some things you can do to prevent the likelihood of getting disease of the liver. This includes changing your diet to one with whole grains, fruits and vegetables, reducing the amount of alcohol you drink to a moderate amount or none at all, taking any vitamins, supplements or medications prescribed to you, limiting contact with chemicals like insecticides or aerosol cleaners, quitting smoking cigarettes, quitting any substances you use, maintaining a healthy weight, and only using some herbal supplements but using them with caution. Always ask your doctor before making any changes to your diet and supplement regimen.