The Liver and Its Functions
The liver is a very important gland in a human body. It is located in the abdomen in the upper right part, right below the diaphragm. The liver is included in the many metabolic processes and is a rather significant role-player of homeostasis. The liver is in charge with digestion of fats, production of bile and regulation of many chemicals in the blood. It is also essential for production of many proteins and removal of the waste products and toxins from the body. Enlargement of the liver is medically known as hepatomegaly. It always points to the presence of underlying medical condition and needs to be taken seriously.
Different Causes of Enlarged Liver
Enlarged liver is not a medical condition per se but only a symptoms or a sign of some other medical conditions.
The most common causes of liver enlargement include liver cirrhosis, liver infections such as hepatitis A, B and C, infectious mononucleosis, alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, hemochromatosis and amyloidosis. Enlarged liver is also a characteristic of Wilson's disease and Gaucher's disease. The enlargement may be additionally caused by liver cysts, hemangiomas and adenomas. It also occurs if there is gallbladder or bile duct obstruction. Hepatomegaly can be a consequence of toxic hepatitis. The liver gets enlarged due to many cancers including primary and secondary liver cancers, leukemia, lymphomas etc. Budd-Chiari syndrome is another medical condition which features with enlarged liver. And finally, heart conditions such as pericarditis, tricuspid regurgitation as well as congestive heart failure always lead to hepatomegaly.
Symptoms of Enlarged Liver
Mild liver enlargement is usually asymptomatic. This organ is not innervated by the nerves which can identify pain. This is why the liver may become huge and the patient still would not feel any pain. However, significant enlargement does compress surrounding organs and tissues and cause certain symptoms and signs. They include the feeling of fullness, discomfort in the upper right part of the abdominal cavity, fatigue and yellowing of the skin (in the presence of jaundice).
Diagnosis and Treatment for Enlarged Liver
Hepatomegaly can be easily palpated. The doctor also performs ultrasound of the abdomen which gives perfect insight of the hepatomegaly. However, sometime patients need to undergo CT scan of the abdomen to determine the exact cause of liver enlargement.
The treatment of liver enlargement includes treatment of the underlying cause. In case of infections the patients are advised to stay in bed and they need to make certain dietary changes. Alcoholic fatty liver disease is treated with abstinence from alcohol. Cirrhosis requires more aggressive treatment especially in advanced stages of the disease. And treatment of tumor depends on the stage of the disease and whether the tumor is primary or secondary.