What is enlarged liver?

Enlarged liver, called hepatomegaly, is an increase in size of the liver, whatever the cause. In some cases, both the liver and spleen become enlarged together, and the resulting condition is called hepatosplenomegaly. The liver is an organ in the digestive system that assists the digestive process and carries out many other essential functions. These functions include producing bile to help break down food into energy; creating essential substances, such as hormones; cleaning toxins from the blood, including those from medication, alcohol and drugs; and controlling fat storage and cholesterol production and release.

Enlarged liver, on its own, is not a symptom that you will notice. You cannot normally feel that your liver is enlarged. Instead, it is sometimes discovered by your physician during a physical exam. Normally, the edge of the liver emerges just to the lower edge of your right rib cage; it is thin and firm and cannot be felt except, in some people, during a deep inhalation. Even if you take a deep breath, an enlarged liver may or may not be palpable to a medical practitioner.

An enlarged liver is usually caused by liver disorders related to excessive alcohol use, congestive heart failure, glycogen storage disease, viral hepatitis, liver cancer, and steatosis (fat in the liver). It can also be caused by a large variety of other disorders, such as mononucleosis or tumor metastases from other primary cancers in the body.

An enlarged liver is not normally a symptom that you can feel. However, it is frequently accompanied by other, more obvious symptoms that may indicate a serious liver condition. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you experience any of the following symptoms related to liver disease or its complications, including confusion, hallucinations, extreme fatigue, fainting, fever (especially if combined with a swollen abdomen), or vomiting blood.

Seek prompt medical care if you experience any of the following symptoms, including yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice); abdominal pain; nausea, vomiting or diarrhea; constant weakness or dizziness; difficulty thinking and understanding; and low-grade fever. Also seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for a liver disease but your symptoms persist, recur, or cause you concern.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with enlarged liver?

Enlarged liver may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the digestive tract may also involve other body systems.

Gastrointestinal symptoms that may occur along with enlarged liver

Enlarged liver may accompany other symptoms affecting the gastrointestinal system including:
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CAUSES

What causes enlarged liver?

Enlarged liver is usually caused by liver disorders related to excessive alcohol use, congestive heart failure, glycogen storage disease, viral hepatitis, liver cancer, cirrhosis, and steatosis (fat in the liver). It can also be caused by a large variety of disorders affecting other body systems, such as infectious mononucleosis or tumor metastases from other primary cancers in the body.
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Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 1, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System


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