Enlarged liver or hepatomegaly: causes and symptoms
Various factors can cause an enlarged liver to develop in the human body. The organ, which is filled with blood and consists of two lobes, is located directly under the diaphragm and is the largest in the body. It is therefore not surprising that a healthy liver is responsible for more than 300 biological functions. It is also the only organ in the human body that can regenerate. However, we can damage this, which leads to a rather uncomfortable condition that doctors call hepatomegaly. Which causes and symptoms have to be considered?
When do we talk about an enlarged liver?
It is only about hepatomegaly when the liver is swollen. Since the organ is divided into two lobes, there are two types of hepatomegaly: homogeneous – the entire liver is affected and heterogeneous – only one lobe is affected. In addition, this mainly depends on the disease that causes an enlarged liver. Can we recognize this state by touching it?
So the liver is undoubtedly a very large organ, but as long as it is healthy, it would be impossible to feel it when touched. On the other hand, if it has increased in size, we may feel uncomfortable and even recognize it by palpation. In this case we speak of an abnormal consistency and pathology.
Given the many essential functions of the body that our liver performs, the diseases responsible for its growth can have different origins. However, there are some that are most common. Poor nutrition killed 11 million people in 2017 and is one of the most common causes of enlarged liver. In connection with diabetes and obesity, this also causes the accumulation of fat in the liver. Doctors describe this condition as a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Causes of unhealthy lifestyle
However, we speak of alcoholic fatty liver when the size of the liver has increased due to the excessive alcohol consumption and the diseases it causes. This also causes fat to accumulate in the largest organ in the body. The liver can also be damaged by an accumulation of toxins such as industrial chemicals and certain medicines. Other conditions that can cause hepatomegaly are the following:
- Viral hepatitis (A, B, C, D, E)
- liver cancer
- heart failure
- Autoimmune diseases
As you may have already understood, hepatomegaly is indeed a symptom that indicates liver problems. However, other worrying symptoms can also accompany this condition. Signs such as fever, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and pain in the liver are also possible.
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