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Enlarged Liver

Definition


Disease: Enlarged Liver Enlarged Liver
Category: Digestive diseases

Disease Definition:

An enlarged liver is referred to as hepatomegaly. Normally, the liver of an adult is about the size of a small football, however, in some cases, it could become enlarged.

 

An enlarged liver is a sign of an underlying problem, including cancer, congestive heart failure or hepatitis. However, an enlarged liver itself is not a disease. Treatment for this condition will be based on its underlying cause.
 

Work Group:


Symptoms, Causes

Symptoms:

Usually, someone with an enlarged liver has no signs or symptoms, however, if they do occur, they may include:

 

  • Pain: When a liver is markedly enlarged, it could cause abdominal pain or fullness.
  • Tenderness: A liver could be tender to the touch in case it enlarges quickly.
  • Jaundice: In case the function of liver is affected, it could cause jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin.
     

Causes:

There are numerous conditions that cause enlargement of the liver, some of which are:

 

Hepatitis:

The liver could be affected by contagious viral infections known as hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

 

Alcohol abuse:

The cause of an enlarged liver could be alcohol abuse.

 

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease:

This condition affects people who drink little or no alcohol and includes a range of conditions, including fat accumulation in the liver followed by inflammation of the liver and the formation of fibrous tissue in the liver.

 

Heart failure:

When someone's heart can’t pump enough blood to meet their body’s needs, it could cause liver enlargement. This condition is also known as congestive heart failure.

 

Mononucleosis or other infections:

Mononucleosis (mono) is an infection with the Epstein-Barr virus.

 

Liver cancer:

When tumors from other parts of the body spread (metastasize) to the liver, liver cancer occurs.

 

Leukemia or other blood disorders:

This disease is cancer of the white blood cells.

 

Hemochromatosis:

This is a condition in which the body absorbs too much iron from food, which is stored in the organs, particularly in the liver, heart and pancreas. In some cases, when the stored iron damages these organs, it could lead to life-threatening conditions, including liver disease, heart problems and cancer.
 

Complications

Complications:

None

Treatments:

Treatment of enlarged liver will depend on the underlying cause.

 

Hepatitis:

Although the infection usually resolves, however, there’s no specific treatment for hepatitis A. In the case of hepatitis B or C, medications could be recommended. A liver transplant could be an option in case the liver has been severely damaged.

 

Alcohol abuse:

It’s vital to stop drinking alcohol in case the enlarged liver is alcohol related. The doctor could tell the patient about the best way to stop drinking.

 

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease:

Usually, exercise and weight loss are an essential part of treatment. Avoiding alcohol and keeping cholesterol under control is also important. Someone should also manage their blood sugar carefully in case they're diabetic.

 

Liver cancer:

Liver cancer could be treated with surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy, depending on the type and stage of the disease, along with other various factors.

 

Heart failure:

Various medications are used to treat heart failure; some of them take the burden of extra fluid off the liver.

 

Blood disorders:

In the case of hemochromatosis, regularly drawing blood can reduce the amount of iron the liver has to process. However, in the case of leukemia, treatment is complex. Chemotherapy and radiation could be some of the available treatments.
 

Prognosis:

Not available

Expert's opinion

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