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Enlarged Liver in Children

Children with enlarged liver or hepatomegaly usually have some underlying condition that has to be identified in order to choose proper treatment.

The liver is a vital organ in the body that performs variety of functions. The liver is responsible for filtering the blood, making bile, processing fats, producing hormones that are involved in clothing of blood, storing minerals and vitamins and detoxification of the body. If liver becomes enlarged, it can be a sign of certain diseases and this may occur in both children and adults.

Causes of Enlarged Liver in Children

Enlarged liver or hepatomegaly is not a disease but a sign of a disease. Number of liver diseases may affect children and result in enlargement of the liver. Hepatomegaly is usually caused by viral infections of the liver. This may be hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C.

Chronic active hepatitis and neonatal hepatitis may also present enlarged liver as a symptom. Hepatomegaly may occur due to hepatoblastoma, which is a type of the liver cancer mainly seen in newborns.

Accumulation of fat in the liver may be caused by Reye’s syndrome and result in enlarged liver. Alagille syndrome that features narrow and deteriorated bile ducts leads to hepatomegally as well.

Enlarged liver may be caused by inherited disease such as Wilson’s disease that causes build up of copper in the liver and galactosemia that causes accumulation of sugars in the liver.

Other causes of hepatomegaly can be heart diseases, obesity, metabolic disorders, vitamins A and D toxicity and prolonged use of certain medications.

When enlargement of the spleen follows enlargement of the liver, it is a condition known as hepatosplenomegaly. This condition is commonly caused by diseases that affect kidneys, liver or red blood cells.

Symptoms of Enlarged Liver in ChildrenWhen the liver in children is slightly enlarged, it may cause no signs and symptoms. But as the condition progresses and the liver continues to expand, affected child may experience abdominal pain. Intensity of the pain depends on severity of the condition. Enlarged liver is associated with yellowing of the skin and eyes, which is known as jaundice. Sometimes enlarged liver may present symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss and lethargy. The liver may be tender to touch as well.

Treatment for Enlarged Liver in ChildrenHepatomegaly can be identified by X-ray examination, ultrasound scan, CT scan and blood tests. Treatment is determined depending on the underlying condition. In mild cases, children are prescribed drugs for treatment of the liver inflammation. In very severe cases, liver transplant may be necessary.

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