Liver Lesions: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
The detection of liver lesions can bring up fears that cancer is present. In truth, the term liver lesion is often used to describe any type of abnormality or unusual spot that shows up on a scan. As far as statistics can suggest, most liver lesions tend to be non-cancerous, although cancer should not be ruled out entirely. It can definitely be unnerving to discover that your liver has an abnormal development, but the best you can do is to learn about the condition and how you can manage and treat it.
What are the symptoms associated with liver lesions?
There are a wide variety of symptoms that can be associated with liver lesions. Unfortunately, because these symptoms can accompany a number of other conditions and are not always specific to the liver, it can be difficult to diagnose lesions without the aid of a CT or MRI scan. One symptom that is commonly seen in liver lesion cases is a feeling of fullness, even when very little food has been eaten. The feeling of fullness is sometimes compared to bloating or gas, but medication targeted towards the relief of these symptoms is not helpful. The upper (and sometimes the lower) abdomen might feel tight or swollen on the outside and on the inside one is likely to feel very uncomfortable. It may be difficult to find a comfortable position while sitting although lying down or stretching might help to provide some temporary relief. Nausea is the second most likely symptom to be detected in association with a lesion on the liver. This is a symptom that is usually produced by a blockage in the bile duct, which goes from the gallbladder to the liver.
Jaundice is a condition that many people associate with newborn babies, but it is a very common symptom that crops up any time there is something wrong with the liver. Jaundice causes a person’s skin and the whites of their eyes to turn yellow, which is a side effect of the body’s liver being unable to properly filter toxins out of the bloodstream. Jaundice can range from a mild yellowing of the skin to a very dark orange color. The darker one’s skin turns, the more toxins there are in the blood; and this is a good indicator of the liver’s distress level.
As you might have guessed, pain is another symptom that is often endured by one who has liver lesions. Pain will usually be felt whether the lesion(s) on the liver is cancerous or not. The pain is more likely to occur when the liver is pressed upon, however larger lesions can push against the liver and surrounding tissues to result in chronic or constant pain.
What causes liver lesions?
A lesion on the liver, which could be any abnormal development, could have several possible causes. One of the more commonly seen lesions of the liver is the hemangioma. A hemangioma is a cluster of blood vessels that can develop as a tumor-like mass on a person’s skin or on an organ. When the hemangioma forms on the liver it is referred to as a hepatic hemangioma. This type of liver lesion is most commonly seen in women and in people between 30 and 50 years of age. Most hemangiomas do not produce symptoms, which makes it difficult to suspect that there is anything wrong with the liver. In fact, a hemangioma is likely to go undetected altogether.
Excessive consumption of alcohol and certain prescription (and illegal) drugs can cause lesions to develop on the liver. As mentioned earlier, women are at a higher risk of developing liver lesions and one of the possible causes behind this is the various types of birth control—particularly birth control pills. Another risk factor for women is menopause, as hormonal changes have been linked to lesions in the liver.
Other possible causes of lesions in the liver are cystic disease and cancer. Bear in mind that while most liver lesions are not cancerous, there is still the possibility that the growth may be malignant. If you suspect that you are suffering from any form of liver issue, it would be best to speak to your doctor about your concerns.
Treating the Lesions
In most cases, particularly when the lesion(s) doesn’t seem to be causing any serious symptoms or damage to the liver or the rest of the body, action isn’t required. When pain or excessive discomfort is present or if the growth is prohibiting the liver from doing its job, then it may be necessary to surgically correct the issue. Sometimes this simply means cutting off the blood vessels that are “feeding” the growth. In other circumstances it may be necessary to remove an actual piece of the liver. The cause of the lesion can have a huge impact on the treatment method that is used, for instance if an adenoma is present, which is typically caused by oral contraceptives, then the first course of action would be to discontinue the use of birth control. Lesions caused by excessive alcohol consumption or drug use would begin a course of treatment that limits the use of alcohol or drugs.