There are many ways to feel liver pain. Most people feel it as a dull, throbbing sensation in their upper right abdomen.
Sometimes, liver pain can feel like a sharp pain that takes your breath away.
Sometimes, this pain is accompanied with swelling.
The liver converts nutrients from food into the products our bodies need to function properly. The liver is also an organ that detoxifies.
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 conditions include:
Liver disease isn’t an uncommon condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), liver disease is a common condition in adults in the United States.
Hepatitis, nonalcoholicfatty liver disease (NAFLD), excessive alcohol consumption are all common causes of liver problems.
Liver pain can also indicate cirrhosis, Reye’s syndrome, liver cancer, and hemochromatosis.
Sometimes, pain in the same area of the liver can be caused by problems in the gallbladder or pancreas.
We’re still learning more about diseases of the liver, including what triggers them and how to best treat them. But if your pain persists without a diagnosis, you can’t benefit from any of the new research or treatment methods that are available to you.
It’s important to work with a doctor to figure out why your liver is hurting.
There are signs that your liver may be suffering from any type of problem.
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.
This means that your body will show signs of toxic effects.
Some symptoms of liver pain can include:
Drink lots of water if liver pain occurs after a heavy meal, or after a night of drinking alcohol.
For a few days, avoid heavy or fatty foods and sit straight to relieve the liver of any pressure.
If the pain continues for more than a few hours, you should make an appointment with your doctor.
If you’re experiencing nausea, dizziness, or hallucinations in conjunction with liver pain, you may need emergency care.
Lifestyle and diet changes
The treatment for your liver pain will depend on what’s causing it. The first step to treating your liver disease is to change what you eat.
The liver is one of few organs that can repair and regenerate itself.
Research on mice’s livers has shown that a diet low in protein can cause a significant decrease of liver volume. However, if adequate protein is added to the diet, it is possible to reverse the damage.
Other lifestyle changes, like losing weight and lowering cholesterol, are good first lines of defense in order to treat liver disease.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can be managed almost entirely by changing your diet and exercising.
If you are suffering from liver pain, you might be tempted by the temptation to use an over-the counter painkiller like 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 your liver problem is severe, you should not take painkillers that you have at home. This could lead to 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 medications are available for chronic diseases such as Epivir (Epivir), and Hepsera (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.
How to manage liver cancer
Your doctor will tell you how to stop liver cancer from spreading if your liver pain is caused.
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, it is impossible to reverse liver damage caused by acetaminophen, hepatitis, other toxin or alcohol exposure, cancer, and/or hepatitis. Your doctor may recommend liver transplantation as the best option in these cases.
When you visit your doctor about your liver pain, they’ll do a visual inspection of your abdomen.
Your doctor will examine your liver for inflammation and ask you questions about your life and the nature and extent of your pain. You’ll probably need a blood test to check if your liver is functioning properly.
Ultrasonography or MRI may be used to examine your liver for any cysts or tumors.
You may also be eligible for a stereotactic or liver biopsy. This is a procedure in which a doctor uses an extremely long and thin needle to remove small amounts of tissue from your body using radiographic imaging guidance.
Transient elastography, a special type of ultrasound testing, checks the stiffness in your liver for scarring and fibrosis. Your doctor may refer to a specialist such as a gastroenterologist and hepatologist for further evaluation.
By getting proper medical care, modifying your diet and lifestyle, and making sure that you look after your body, most liver disease can be effectively managed — if not cured completely.
A serious problem in your body can often be detected by liver pain. It isn’t something to be ignored or waited out.
Talk to your doctor about liver pain to determine the best course of action.
This article is also available in Spanish.