Liver Pain – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

The liver is a vital organ, made of two lobes, on the right side of the belly. Its main functions are filtering and detoxifying blood, secreting bile which emulsifies fat, and storing energy in the form of glycogen.

And, if you ever experience the below symptoms, go see your doctor just to make sure it’s not some liver-related problem; because if it is – it is quite indicative of this and/or that condition or disease and it can get complicated fast.

Human liver; image source:

Liver Pain Symptoms

Liver pain can take different forms:

  • dull, constant throbbing sensation on the right side of the abdomen
  • stabbing sensation in the right side of the abdomen
  • swelling
  • a backache or pain in the right shoulder blade – occasionally

Commonly associated symptoms may be:

  • dark, brown urine or light-colored stool
  • yellowish eyes or skin; jaundice
  • itchy skin
  • ankles or legs swelling
  • chronic fatigue
  • nausea
  • appetite loss
  • bad breath
  • bruising more easily than usual
  • experiencing fevers or chills

Liver pain is frequently misinterpreted as abdominal pain, kidney pain or back pain. You can’t feel the liver by pressing because the ribs protect it. That is why it is very important to visit a doctor to determine the cause of pain.

Causes of Liver Pain

Like with most health conditions, there isn’t a unanimous answer to what causes liver pain. Weakened immunity and genetic factors can both significantly contribute to liver problems, but the most common causes are the following:

  • medications like acetaminophen – widely used in treating allergies and sinus inflammation, but excessive consumption may lead to its accumulation in the liver
  • alcohol consumption – the liver breaks down alcohol and helps its removal from the body, but up to a certain point – when the liver suffers from inflammation developing cirrhosis
  • liver cancer – abnormal liver cells divide and multiply, leading to cancer development
  • liver cysts – thin-walled, fluid-filled cavities which usually don’t cause any discomfort and usually go away on their own, but may rupture and press other organs
  • fatty liver – disease developed if fat cells take up more than 10% of the liver weight
  • hepatitis (A, B, C, D, E) – hepatitis means liver inflammation, which destroys and seriously harms liver cells; caused by a virus, alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and some medical conditions
  • primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) – liver or bile duct inflammation, results in liver scarring

The risk of developing liver complications is significantly increased by using drugs (especially by sharing needless), diabetes, obesity, as well as exposure to certain chemicals.

Liver Pain Treatment

Since causes of liver pain are various, the treatment models also differ. Some conditions, like fatty liver, can be solved simply by making some lifestyle changes – quitting alcohol and cigarettes, eating healthy and physical activity.

Other problems require medications or even surgery. Hepatitis is treated with drugs like antiviral agents, while liver cysts are surgically removed if necessary.

Liver cancer is treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In cases of severe conditions which lead to complete liver failure, the only solution is to perform liver transplantation (in some cases for treating cancer, fatty liver, PSC, etc.)

Alternative medicine in treating liver pain is yet to be proven effective; in fact, certain herbal supplements are known to cause harm to your liver. That is why it is crucial to talk to your doctor before you take any actions on your own, and he will perform liver function test.


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