When you feel liver pain it is located in the upper right abdomen and can be a sign of diseases such as infections, obesity, cholesterol or cancer or can be due to exposure to toxic substances such as alcohol, detergents or even medications.
Treatment depends on the disease that causes it and the associated symptoms. However, it can also be prevented by vaccination, proper nutrition, exercise, or avoiding risky behaviors such as needle-sharing or unprotected sex.
The liver can be infected by viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites, causing inflammation and changes in its functioning. The most common types of liver infection are virus-borne hepatitis A, B and C, which in addition to causing liver pain, can cause symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, tiredness, muscle and joint pain, headache, light sensitivity, light stools, dark urine, yellow skin and eyes.
Hepatitis A can be transmitted through contact with contaminated water or food, and hepatitis B and C are usually transmitted through contact with contaminated blood or secretions and may be asymptomatic, but treatment is still required to prevent liver deterioration.
How to treat: Treatment for hepatitis involves the use of medication such as Interferon, lamivudine or adefovir for about 6 to 11 months, depending on the type of hepatitis and the response to treatment, and an easily digestible diet should be followed and so it is important you diet contains gelatin, fish or rice, for example. See more easily digestible foods.
Hepatitis is curable most of the time, but when treatment is not done properly, it increases the risk of developing cirrhosis and liver cancer. This disease can also be prevented by hepatitis A and B vaccines, by using condoms during sex, avoiding the sharing of syringes and adopting good hygiene measures.
2. Autoimmune Diseases
When you have an autoimmune diseases, your immune system attacks the body itself and may also affect the liver. Examples of such diseases are autoimmune 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 it to become swollen and causing symptoms such as abdominal pain, yellow skin or feeling sick. Primary biliary cirrhosis consists of the progressive destruction of the bile ducts located in the liver, and sclerosing cholangitis causes its narrowing causing fatigue and itching, or even cirrhosis and liver failure.
How to treat: Autoimmune hepatitis is curable if a liver transplant is done in the most severe cases. However, the disease can be controlled with the use of corticosteroid drugs such as prednisone or immunosuppressants such as azathioprine. In addition, you should eat a balanced diet, avoiding the intake of alcohol and high fat foods.
In primary biliary cirrhosis and sclerosing cholangitis, ursodeoxycholic acid is the treatment of choice, and if it is started as soon as the first symptoms appear, it can slow the disease progression and prevent cirrhosis. In a terminal phase, the only treatment that cures the disease is liver transplantation.
3. Genetic diseases
Liver pain can also be caused by genetic diseases that lead to the buildup of toxic substances in the liver, such as hereditary hemochromatosis, which can cause excess iron to build up in the body, oxaluria, which may lead to increased oxalic acid in the liver or Wilson's disease, where copper accumulates.
How to treat: Hemochromatosis can be treated by avoiding foods with large amounts of iron, such as red meat, spinach or green beans, for example.
In the cases of oxaluria, the oxalate consumption present in spinach and walnuts should be reduced, for example, and in more severe cases dialysis or liver and kidney transplantation may be required. Wilson's disease can be treated by reducing the intake of copper-rich foods such as mussels or by taking substances that bind to copper, helping to eliminate it in the urine such as penicillamine or zinc acetate.
4. Excess alcohol
Alcoholic hepatitis is caused by excessive drinking of alcohol, which can cause severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite, for example, and if left untreated, can cause severe liver damage.
How to treat: Treatment consists of stopping alcohol intake and using medication such as ursodeoxycholic acid or phosphatidylcholine, which may reduce inflammation of the liver and relieve symptoms. In the most severe cases, a liver transplant may be required.
5. Medication abuse
Drug hepatitis is caused by exposure to toxic substances, overuse of medications, or even allergic reactions to them, which can cause liver cell damage.
How to treat: Treatment consists of immediate discontinuation of the drug or toxic substance that is the cause of the problem and, in more severe cases, the use of corticosteroids may be necessary until liver function is normal.
Liver cancer can affect hepatocytes, bile ducts and blood vessels and is usually very aggressive and can cause pain in the abdomen, nausea, loss of appetite and yellow eyes, for example.
How to treat: Surgery is usually required to remove the affected liver region and may require chemotherapy or radiotherapy prior to surgery to reduce the size of the cancer.
7. Fat accumulation
Fat accumulation in the liver is common in people with obesity, high cholesterol or diabetes, and may be asymptomatic or can cause symptoms such as pain in the right side of the abdomen, swollen belly, nausea and vomiting.
How to treat: Treatment for fat in the liver consists of regular exercise and a proper diet based on white meat and vegetables. If your blood cholesterol levels change, your doctor may recommend you use control medications.
Other symptoms of liver problem
Check your symptoms below and find out if you may have a liver problem or other illnesses that may be related:
Home Remedy for Liver Pain
A great home remedy to relieve and treat liver problems is thistle marian tea, which has its silymarin composition, very effective in biliary disorders, hepatitis, fatty liver, toxic liver disease or even liver cirrhosis.
- 2 teaspoons of thistle fruits;
- 1 cup of boiling water.
Pour a glass of boiling water over the crushed thistle fruits and let the mixture rest for about 10 minutes. The recommended dose is 3 to 4 cups per day.
How to prevent liver pain
Liver pain can be prevented by taking the following precautions:
- Drink alcohol in moderation;
- Avoid risky behaviors such as having unprotected sex, using drugs, or sharing syringes, for example;
- Get hepatitis A and B vaccines;
- Use medications moderately, avoiding drug interactions;
- Wear a mask and protect the skin when using toxic products contained in paints and detergents, for example;
In addition, it is also very important to exercise regularly and to eat a balanced diet with foods that can help detoxify the liver, such as lemon or artichoke, for example. See more liver-detoxifying foods.
When to go to the doctor
You should see your doctor when abdominal pain becomes severe and persistent or when it is accompanied by other symptoms such as yellowish skin and eyes, swelling in the legs, generalized skin itching, presence of dark urine and clear or bloody stools, loss weight, tiredness, nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite.
During the appointment, the doctor will perform a physical exam to understand where it hurts and may ask several questions about other symptoms and eating habits, and may order some tests such as ultrasound, MRI or CT, blood tests or liver biopsy.