Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 13th, 2018.
What is Liver Pain?
This is a type of pain that can be hard to identify because the pain that comes from your abdominal organs, which is what your liver is considered, is often received by your brain in a vague manner. Often the source of liver pain is from pressure on the capsule that covers a portion of your liver because your liver’s pain receptors are primarily found on the surface. Your liver is the largest internal organ of your body. Because of where your liver is located the pain you feel is often confused as back pain, kidney pain, or abdominal pain. The pain is often described as having a dull ache with a little discomfort.
Liver Pain Location
When you have pain in your liver it is normally felt in the upper right quadrant of your abdomen under your rib cage and the diaphragm on the right side. The exact location of liver pain will vary from person to person. Sometimes when you have liver pain you may also have abdomen or back pain. You may also have in addition with back pain, a sharp or dull pain.
During the initial stages of liver pain it does not cause any noticeable symptoms. Other symptoms that can be associated with liver conditions that can cause liver pain can include:
- Pain in your back – in many cases you will also have pain in your shoulder or back particularly on your right side.
- Feeling fatigued – a common symptom of liver disease and how fatigued you will be vary with what is causing the liver pain and how severe it is.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms – this can include bloating, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, poor appetite, and more.
- Changes in your skin – itching, brownish spots/blemishes, rash. There may also be some yellow discoloration
- Effects on your eyes – itching and swelling of your eyes are common. You may also have dark circles
- Body odor – body odor that can be offensive, excessive sweating, bad breath
- Itchy palms – the palms of your hands and soles of your feet may become itchy, inflamed, and red.
You may also feel pain while coughing or inhaling, pale stools, difficulty in breathing, headaches, joint pain, weight loss that is unexplainable, ankle swelling, and easy bruising.
There are also some severe symptoms that a person may experience, which can include:
- Heart beat that is rapid
- Fever that can be high
- Vomiting up blood
- Liver pain that is sharp
- Hallucinations and delirium
- Tarry dark stools
- Swelling in your abdomen
- Severe discoloration of your eyes and skin
It is unusual for a person who is experiencing liver pain to experience all of these symptoms because these symptoms cover a variety of medical conditions that can cause liver pain. If you have any of them it could help identify what medical condition could be causing your liver pain.
Having a liver disease or other medical condition is usually the cause of your liver pain. Many times what is causing your liver pain are serious and if you do not see your physician to have the cause diagnosed and treated it could become life-threatening.
Some of the liver diseases that could cause your liver pain can include:
- Hepatitis – any type of hepatitis can cause jaundice and liver pain. If this condition is not treated the hepatitis can become worse and cause failure of your liver.
- Liver cancer – liver cancer is usually not diagnosed until it is in the final stages and when you have pain with this medical condition it is your upper right quadrant where it will be found.
- Fatty liver – a medical condition where there is an accumulation of fat in your liver,
- Cirrhosis – this is poor liver function and scarring of your liver and is the result of advanced liver disease.
- Toxic overload – it could be a cause of liver pain and is where your body does not detoxify as quickly as it should as new pollutants and toxins enter into your liver.
- Hepatic vein thrombosis
- Consumption of alcohol, especially excessive amounts of alcohol
- Tumor in your liver
- Enlarged spleen
- Injury to your liver
- Abscess in your liver
- Autoimmune disease
- Diseases like congestive heart failure, tuberculosis, type 2 diabetes
- Acetaminophen overuse (Tylenol)
How liver pain is diagnosed depends on what underlying condition is causing the liver pain. The reason is that there are different diagnostic tests used for different medical conditions. For example, if it is though that cirrhosis is the cause of liver pain the physician may order an endoscopy, ultrasound scans, MRI scans, and CT scans or taking a biopsy of your liver. Liver cancer could be diagnosed with blood tests, liver biopsy, and medical imaging technology. The physician may also order blood tests to look for liver enzymes and a protein called alpha fetoprotein and if the level is high it could indicate certain liver cancers and problems
In order to treat liver pain it is very important to find out what the underlying cause is and treat it. You will also have to make lifestyle changes which can help to get rid of the pain quickly along with helping to delay the progression of the underlying cause. You may also have to take medication.
Other home treatments you can use include:
- Make sure that each day you are drinking at least eight glasses of water each day to help rid your body of accumulated toxins.
- Use herbal detoxifying agents to detox your body but make sure that before you do to talk to your physician to make sure it is okay.
- Include flaxseed in your diet
- Eat a diet that is high in fiber that consists of lots of vegetables and fruits to help flush away toxins.
- If the underlying cause is liver cirrhosis you could take vitamin B1 to help lower your blood sugar levels but again check with your physician first.
- Make sure are getting enough vitamins A and K in the form of supplements and foods containing these two vitamins.
One important thing to remember is that certain medications could cause the situation worse so before taking any medication over-the-counter talk to your physician.