Possible Sources of Liver Pain
Liver pain is a condition that can be hard to conceive by people who have never experienced it before. The liver is a vital organ—one which the human body simply cannot get on without. The liver is a large organ that rests behind the right rib cage. It is responsible for metabolizing the protein, fat, and carbs from food into energy and it also works as a storage area for excess blood, sugar (to be used as energy when needed) and vitamins and minerals. The liver also helps regulate hormone levels, blood clotting agents, water, electrolytes, and blood pressure. The liver does many more tasks in addition to these! As you can imagine, when the liver fails to do its job, there can be a lot of serious repercussions that can be life threatening if the liver is left untreated. Let’s take a look at the symptoms of liver pain and some of the conditions that can cause the liver to hurt.
What Does Liver Pain Feel Like?
Pain of the liver can be described in different ways depending on what’s going on with the liver. One way of describing liver pain is to say that it feels like the liver swollen and pushing against the rib cage. Many people liken the sensation to feeling like there is a rock under their ribs. It is typically achiness rather than a sharp or stabbing pain. Pain can be felt in the front of the body behind the rib cage, towards the back, and even to the right side or shoulder. The pain may also be felt as a cramp-like sensation that occurs especially when one coughs or takes a deep breath. Itching is a very common symptom that occurs when the liver is in distress.
Hepatitis is a viral infection that attacks the liver. There are three types of hepatitis: A, B, and C. Hepatitis can be acquired by exposure to infected blood, needles, and sexual intercourse with an infected individual. Liver damage caused by alcohol, autoimmune diseases, viral infections, bacterial infections, parasites, and medication overdose (such as acetaminophen, or Tylenol) is a common cause behind hepatitis. The primary symptom of hepatitis is inflammation, primarily swelling, of the liver. Many people with hepatitis do not have symptoms while others complain of pain in the area of the liver, fatigue, weight loss, achiness in the muscles and joints, fever, nausea, and vomiting. A well known sign of liver failure is jaundice, which causes one’s skin and the whites of their eyes to turn yellow.
Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease is a condition in which pockets of fat build up in the liver. As more fat builds up in the liver (to make up more than five to ten percent of the liver) it leads to inflammation and, in some cases, liver pain. The symptoms of this disease include fatigue, general weakness, difficulty concentrating or paying attention, pain in the area of the liver, patches of discoloration on the skin of the neck or armpits, water retention, jaundice, and loss of muscle mass. Fatty liver disease can be caused by drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time, having too much iron in one’s diet, being obese, or maintaining a diet high in fat. Fatty liver disease is actually the most common cause of chronic liver disease in America with an estimated 20 percent of adults having some form of fatty liver disease.
Pyogenic Liver Abscess
A pyogenic liver abscess is a fancy way of saying that the liver has developed a pustule, or a puss-filled bubble. There are several things that can lead to the development of a pyogenic liver abscess, such as an infection of the abdomen, an infection that targets the blood, and liver trauma. Some of the most likely types of bacteria to result in a pyogenic liver abscess are enterococcus, staphylococcus, streptococcus, and E. coli. The symptoms of a pyogenic liver abscess are dark, concentrated urine (usually accompanied by a strong odor), fever, weight loss, no desire to eat, nausea and/or vomiting, fatigue and muscle weakness, liver pain, and yellowing of the skin and eyes as a result of jaundice. While the liver is capable, in most circumstances, of regenerating itself, liver abscesses simply must be removed which means that one must either undergo surgery to remove the abscess or a needle may be inserted through the skin and into the abscess in order to drain the puss. It is very important that liver abscesses be taken care of as soon as possible because there is the serious risk that the pustule will burst allowing the toxic puss to cause sepsis.
If you have been experiencing some of the symptoms listed in this article then it may be possible that your liver is suffering from an undiagnosed issue. Many individuals who experience pain in the liver often mistake it for other—more common—abdominal pains like cramps, bloating, indigestion, or heartburn. Bear in mind that liver pain does not always manifest even when the liver is failing to work properly, which means that your liver doesn’t have to hurt in order for something to be wrong with it (that is especially true if you are experiencing other tell-tale signs of liver failure like jaundice). When in doubt the best option is to see your doctor and express your concerns.