Table of contents:
Pain in the liver is a pain located in the upper right region of the abdomen and can be a sign of diseases such as infections, obesity, cholesterol or cancer or it can happen 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 with vaccination, correct nutrition, physical exercise or avoiding risky behaviors such as sharing needles or having sex unprotected.
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 hepatitis A, B and C, transmitted by viruses, 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, pale stools, dark urine, yellow skin and eyes.
How to treat: The treatment must be indicated by the hepatologist or general practitioner and may vary according to the type of infection, and the use of antiviral drugs may be indicated by the doctor, antibiotics or antiparasitics, in addition to being recommended to have a diet that is easy to digest and low in fat, so that it is possible to prevent the liver from becoming more inflamed.
2. Autoimmune diseases
In people with autoimmune diseases, their immune system attacks the body itself, which can also affect the liver. Examples of these 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 inflamed and causing symptoms such as abdominal pain, yellow skin or nausea. Primary biliary cirrhosis, on the other hand, consists of the progressive destruction of the bile ducts located in the liver, and sclerosing cholangitis causes their narrowing causing fatigue and itching, or even cirrhosis and liver failure.
How to treat: Autoimmune hepatitis is curable if a liver transplant is performed, 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 have a balanced diet, avoiding the intake of alcohol and foods with a lot of fat.
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 progression of the disease, preventing the occurrence of cirrhosis.In a terminal phase, the only treatment that cures the disease is liver transplantation.
3. Genetic diseases
Pain in the liver region can also be caused by genetic diseases that lead to the accumulation of toxic substances in the liver, such as hereditary hemochromatosis, which causes accumulation of excess iron in the body, oxaluria, which leads to increased of oxalic acid in the liver or Wilson's disease, in which 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. by a nutritionist.
In the case of oxaluria, the consumption of oxalate present in spinach and nuts, for example, should be reduced and, in more severe cases, dialysis or liver and kidney transplantation may be necessary. Wilson's disease can be treated by reducing the intake of foods rich in copper, such as mussels, or by taking substances that bind copper, helping to eliminate it in the urine, such as penicillamine or zinc acetate, for example.
4. Excessive alcohol
Excessive and regular consumption of alcoholic beverages can increase the risk of developing alcoholic hepatitis, in which there is severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite, for example, and if left untreated, it can cause serious liver damage.
How to treat: Treatment consists of stopping alcohol intake and using drugs such as ursodeoxycholic acid or phosphatidylcholine, which reduce liver inflammation and relieve symptoms. In more severe cases, a liver transplant may be necessary.
5. Drug abuse
Drug hepatitis is caused by exposure to toxic substances, excessive use of drugs or even allergic reactions to drugs, which can damage liver cells.
How to treat: Treatment consists of the immediate suspension of the drug or toxic substance that is causing the problem and, in more severe cases, the use of corticosteroids may be necessary until liver function is normalized.
Liver cancer can affect hepatocytes, bile ducts and blood vessels and is usually very aggressive, which can cause pain in the abdomen, nausea, loss of appetite and yellow eyes, for example. See more liver cancer symptoms.
How to treat: It is usually necessary to resort to surgery to remove the affected liver region, and chemotherapy or radiotherapy may be necessary before performing it, in order to reduce the cancer size.
7. Fat accumulation
Accumulation of fat in the liver is common in people with obesity, high cholesterol or diabetes, and may be asymptomatic or cause symptoms such as pain in the right side of the abdomen, swollen belly, nausea and vomiting.
How to treat: The treatment for fatty liver consists of regular physical exercise and an adequate diet based on white meats and vegetables.If there is a change in blood cholesterol levels, the doctor may indicate the use of medication for control. Watch the following video and see our nutritionist's tips on the recommended diet for fatty liver:
Liver problem symptoms test
Check your symptoms below and find out if you may have a liver problem or what other diseases may be related:
- 1.Do you feel pain or discomfort in the upper right part of your belly? Yes No
- 2.Are you feeling sick or dizzy frequently? Yes No
- 3.Do you have frequent headaches? Yes No
- 4.Do you feel tired more easily? Yes No
- 5.Do you have multiple purple spots on your skin? Yes No
- 6.Are your eyes or skin yellow? Yes No
- 7.Is your urine dark? Yes No
- 8.Have you been feeling a lack of appetite? Yes No
- 9.Is your stool yellow, gray or white? Yes No
- 10.Do you feel like your belly is bloated? Yes No
- 11.Do you feel itchy all over your body? Yes No
Make an appointment with a specialist
How to prevent liver pain
Pain in the liver region can be prevented if the following precautions are taken:
- Drink alcohol in moderation;
- Avoid risky behaviors such as having unprotected sex, using drugs, or sharing needles, for example;
- Get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B virus;
- Use medications sparingly, 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 eat a balanced diet, with foods that help detoxify the liver, such as lemon or artichoke, for example. See more foods that detoxify the liver.
When to go to the doctor
A doctor should be consulted when abdominal pain becomes intense and persistent or when it is accompanied by other symptoms, such as yellow skin and eyes, swelling in the legs, generalized itching of the skin, presence of dark urine and pale stools or with blood, weight loss, tiredness, nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite.
During the consultation, the doctor will perform a physical examination, in order to understand where it hurts and may ask several questions about other symptoms and eating habits, and may request some tests such as ultrasound, MRI or tomography, blood tests or liver biopsy.Learn more about tests to evaluate the liver.