Liver pain is usually felt on the upper right region of the abdomen and it can be a sign of infection and diseases such as obesity, high cholesterol and cancer. It may also be due to exposure to toxic substances such as alcohol, detergents or even medications.
Treatment of liver pain depends on the underlying disease and the associated symptoms. However, it can be prevented by vaccination, correct feeding, physical exercise or avoiding risky behaviours such as sharing of syringes or practicing unprotected sexual intercourse.
The liver can be infected by viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites, which will cause inflammation and changes in its functioning. The most common types of liver infections are virus-borne hepatitis A, B and C. Aside from causing liver pain, it comes with symptoms such as loss of appetite, feeling sick, vomiting, fatigue, pain in muscles and joints, headache, sensitivity to light, light stools, dark urine and yellowish eyes.
Hepatitis A ca be transmitted through contact with water or food. For Hepatitis B and C, they are usually transmitted through contact with contaminated blood or body secretions. It may be asymptomatic, but treatment will still be needed to prevent deterioration of the liver.
How to treat: Treatment of hepatitis involves the use of drugs such as Interferon, lamivudine or adefovir, which are taken for about 6 to 11 months, depending on the type of hepatitis. During treatment it is advisable to take easily digested gelatine-based fish or rice-based diet.
Hepatitis can be cured in most cases but when the treatment is done the right way, then there is increased risk of developing cirrhosis and liver cancer. The disease can also be prevented using hepatitis A and B vaccines as well as using a condom during sexual intercourse. One should also avoid sharing of syringes and high hygiene standards should be maintained.
2. Autoimmune diseases
For people with autoimmune diseases, their immune system attacks the body itself and this may affect the liver. Examples of autoimmune diseases are hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis.
Autoimmune hepatitis is a rare disease in which the body attacks the cells of the liver itself causing inflammation. It results in symptoms such as abdominal pain, yellowish skin and feeling sick. On the other hand, primary biliary cirrhosis causes progressive destruction of the bile ducts that are located in the liver. Sclerosing cholangitis causes narrowing of the liver which will results in symptoms such as fatigue and itching as well as cirrhosis and liver failure.
How to treat : Autoimmune hepatitis can be cured if a liber transplant is performed but only in the most severe cases. However, the disease can be controlled by using corticosteroid remedies, such as prednisone, or immunosuppressants such as azathioprine. In addition, it is advisable to take a balanced diet and avoid intake of alcoholic drinks and foods that contains excess fat.
For primary biliary cirrhosis and sclerosing cholangitis, ursodeoxycholic acid is the best form of treatment. If it is used upon the appearance of the first symptoms, then it can reduce the rate of the disease progression, which will prevent the occurrence of cirrhosis. During the terminal phase, the only treatment that will cure the disease is a liver transplant.
3. Genetic diseases
Pain in the region of the liver can also be as a result of genetic diseases that will lead to accumulation of toxic substances in the liver. Some of these genetic diseases include hereditary hemochromatosis, which causes accumulation of excess iron in the body, oxaluria, which results in increased oxalic acid in the liver or the Wilson’s disease which causes accumulation of copper.
How to treat : Hemochromatosis can be treated by avoiding foods that contain large amounts of iron, such as red meats, spinach or green beans.
For oxaluria, the consumption of spinach should be avoided as it contains oxalate. In more severe cases, dialysis or liver and kidney transplant may be necessary. Wilson’s disease can be treated by reducing the intake of foods that are rich in copper such as mussels or by taking foods that bind copper which will also help in elimination of the copper in urine such as penicillin or zinc acetate.
4. Excess alcohol
Alcohol hepatitis is caused by excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages. It causes severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. If left untreated, it may result to severe liver damage.
How to treat: Treatment consists of stopping the intake of alcohol and using remedies such as ursodeoxycholic acid or phosphatidylcholine. These will function to reduce inflammation of the liver and relive the symptoms. In the most severe cases, a liver transplant may be required.
5. Drug abuse
Drug hepatitis is caused by exposure to toxic substances, excessive use of some drugs or even due to allergic reactions. All these can cause liver cell damage.
How to treat: Treatment consists if immediate suspension if the drug being used or the toxic substance that is at the origin of the problem. In more severe cases, corticosteroids may be prescribed until the functioning of the liver is normalised.
Liver cancer can affect hepatocytes, bile ducts and blood vessels and is usually very aggressive. It can cause pain in the abdomen, feeling sick, loss of appetite and yellowish eyes.
How to treat: It is necessary to resort to surgery so as to remove the affected liver region. It may also be necessary to undergo chemotherapy or radiotherapy before surgery is performed. This is important so as to reduce the cancer.
7. Fat accumulation
Accumulation of fat in the liver is common in people in people with obesity, high cholesterol or diabetes. It may be asymptomatic and in some cases it may cause symptoms such as as pain on the right side of the abdomen, swollen belly, feeling sick and vomiting.
How to treat: Treatment of the liver consists of doing regular exercise and proper nutrition that is based on white meat and vegetables. In case there is change in blood cholesterol levels, the doctor may prescribe the use of medications for its control.
Other symptoms of liver problem
Below is an assessment of symptoms that can be used to know if you have liver problems:
1. Do you experience pain or discomfort in the upper right of the belly?
2. Have you been feeling frequent feeling sick or dizzy?
3. Do you have a frequent headache?
4. Do you feel that you get tired more easily?
5. Do you have several purple spots on your skin?
6. Are your eyes or skin yellowish?
7. Is your urine dark?
8. Have you been feeling a lack of appetite?
9. Are your stools yellowish, gray or whitish?
10. Do you feel that your belly is swollen?
11. Do you feel itchy all over your body?
Home remedy for liver pain
A great home remedy to relieve and treat liver problems is taking the thistle-mariano tea. It is composed of silymarin, which is very effective for treating biliary disorders, hepatitis, fatty liver, toxic liver diseases or even liver cirrhosis.
- 2 teaspoons of Marian thistle fruits
- 1 glass of boiling water
In glass containing the crushed brown thistle fruits, pour a glass of boiling water and let it stand for about 10 minutes. The recommended intake is 3 to 4 cups per day.
How to prevent liver pain
Pain in the liver region can be prevented by adopting the following precautions:
- Drinking alcohol in moderation
- Avoid risky behaviours such as having unprotected sex, using drugs, or sharing syringes
- Take hepatitis A and B vaccines
- Use medications in a moderate way, avoiding drug interactions
- Use mask and protect the skin during the use of toxic products contained in paints and detergents
In addition, regular exercise is essential as well as taking a balanced diet containing foods that detoxify the liver such as lemon or artichoke
When to go to the doctor
One should go to the doctor when the abdominal pain becomes intense and persistent or when it is accompanied by other symptom such as yellowish skin and eyes, swelling of the legs, generalized itching of the skin, presence of dark urine and light or bloody stools, weight loss, fatigue and nausea, vomiting as well as loss of appetite.
During consultation, the doctor will perform a physical examination to confirm the exact prat where there is pain and he can also ask several question about other symptoms as well as eating habits. Other tests that may be done to confirm the diagnosis include ultrasound, MRI or CT scans, blood tests or liver biopsy.