What Causes An Enlarged Liver?

Performing some of the most important roles in maintaining the health of your body, the liver is a large and football-shaped organ located on the right side of the abdomen, right under the ribcage. It carries out over 500 vital functions in your body, but its primary role is to regulate your bloodstream content by creating nutrients and filtering out unwanted compounds (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). While livers vary in size by person, an enlarged liver can be a sign of an underlying problem that requires medical attention.

Symptoms of an enlarged liver include abdominal pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, or yellowing of the eyes and skin, also called jaundice. However, an enlarged liver might also come with no symptoms at all (via the Mayo Clinic). Because an enlarged liver can be caused by a wide range of conditions, treatment usually revolves around identifying the medical issue that is behind the enlargement and treating that, rather than just focusing on the liver itself.

What conditions can cause an enlarged liver?

An enlarged liver can be a sign of a range of diseases, including cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis, as well as liver cancer and heart failure (via the Mayo Clinic). Many of these conditions can be linked to lifestyle risk factors that greatly increase your chance of developing an enlarged liver, like excessive alcohol consumption, overuse of prescription medications or nutritional supplements, and obesity.

Treating an enlarged liver requires making an appointment with your doctor to diagnose the exact cause of your condition. There are also steps you can take to prevent an enlarged liver, including eating a healthy diet, drinking alcohol in moderation, keeping your body weight within a healthy range, not overdoing it with vitamins and herbal supplements, and limiting your exposure to harsh chemicals like insecticides and industrial cleaners (via the Mayo Clinic). It's also important to take steps to avoid contracting contagious diseases, like hepatitis C, which is spread through blood contact. It often leads to enlarged liver conditions, as well as possible long term liver damage (via The Hepatitis C Trust).