Liver pain: causes and symptoms

Liver pain can be felt in the upper abdomen on the right side. It can be a sign of a serious illness, so it may be necessary to see a doctor. A healthy liver helps the body fight infections, cleans the blood and plays a role in metabolism. He is also able to repair himself when damaged. If the liver is not able to do its job properly, it can be life threatening.

Liver pain can have many causes. It is important to find the cause of the pain and seek treatment to avoid irreversible damage.

Liver pain and liver disease

The Liver pain can be dull and nonspecific, but it can also be severe. It can result in back pain. Liver pain is sometimes confused with pain in the right shoulder, abdomen, or kidney. Many liver diseases and other organic conditions can cause liver pain. Some of them can lead to liver damage. Without treatment, the liver may eventually stop working. Liver disease is any condition that causes inflammation or damage to the liver and may affect its function. Liver pain is often a sign of liver disease.

Symptoms of liver disease often only appear at an advanced stage of the disease. It is therefore important to be alert for liver pain and other symptoms that could signal a liver disorder.

Patients should seek immediate medical attention if they experience any of the following symptoms :

– severe pain, especially in the abdomen

– fever

– dark urine

– pale, bloody or tar-colored stools

– nausea and vomiting

– weight loss

– yellowish skin

– intense tenderness in the abdomen

– swelling of the abdomen or legs and ankles

– itchy skin

– chronic fatigue

– loss of appetite

More than 100 types different liver diseases can cause liver pain. Here are some examples:


Cholangitis is an inflammation of the bile duct system, usually due to a bacterial infection. The bile duct drains bile from the liver and gallbladder and delivers it to the small intestine. Cholangitis infection causes a buildup of pressure in this drainage system. This normally indicates that there is an obstruction or blockage in the system. This may be due to stones, a tumour, blood clots or reflux of bacteria.


Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. The most common cause is a virus, but other causes are excessive alcohol consumption, toxins, certain medications, and certain medical conditions. There are several types of hepatitis virus. The most common types are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

Hepatitis B, C, and D cause chronic hepatitis, which can eventually lead to cirrhosis , liver failure and liver cancer.

– Hepatitis A is found in the feces of an infected person and is spread by drinking contaminated water or food.

– Hepatitis B is spread through exposure to bodily fluids, such as blood and semen.

– Hepatitis C is spread through the infected blood or sometimes sexually.

– Hepatitis D is a secondary infection that only affects people with hepatitis B.

– The Hepatitis E is spread by consuming contaminated food or water.

– Autoimmune hepatitis, which is when the immune system attacks liver cells.

Hepatitis can be acute, i.e. sudden and of short duration, or chronic, i.e. long long-lasting and persistent.

Liver Abscess

A liver abscess is a pocket of infected fluid, or pus, which forms in the liver. Infection with certain germs, such as bacteria, parasites, or fungi, can cause the abscess. An abscess can damage nearby tissues, it can lead to bleeding, further infections and even death. Treatment may include an antibiotic or antifungal medication, and the abscess may be drained. Follow-up imaging tests of the liver are normally done to make sure the abscess has gone away and there is no permanent damage.


Cirrhosis is irreversible scarring of the liver. The liver slowly worsens and becomes unable to function properly due to lasting damage. Over time, scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue, which can begin to block blood flow through the liver. A healthy liver can regenerate its damaged cells. If the damage is too severe or too long, the liver cannot completely repair itself and it creates scar tissue instead. Cirrhosis occurs gradually, but as it gets worse, the liver begins to deteriorate. This can lead to chronic liver failure or end-stage liver disease, where the liver can no longer perform its vital functions.

Budd-Chiari Syndrome

This is a rare liver disease in which blood clots block the flow of blood out of the liver. Blood backs up into the liver, causing it to enlarge. In some cases, the spleen can also grow. The accumulation of blood causes an increase in blood pressure in the portal vein. This is the vein that carries blood from the intestines to the liver. This increase in pressure is known as portal hypertension. Portal hypertension causes fluid to build up in the abdomen. Blockage of the veins causes blood flow from the liver to the heart to slow or stop. Scarring of the liver or cirrhosis is also possible.

People whose blood is more likely to clot are also at higher risk of Budd- syndrome. Chiari. These include pregnant women and people with a tumor, chronic inflammatory disease, bleeding disorder or infection.

The effect of alcohol

Chronic alcohol abuse is the main cause of cirrhosis. Normally, the liver breaks down alcohol and removes it from the body. If a person consumes more alcohol than the liver can process, liver cells can be damaged or destroyed. Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to fatty buildup and inflammation in the liver, which can culminate in alcoholic cirrhosis. Alcoholic cirrhosis is not reversible even after alcohol consumption is stopped, but stopping alcohol consumption may prevent further damage and help improve symptoms.

Causes and risk factors for liver disease

Liver disease has many different causes, including:

– infection

– immune system problems

– genetic factors

– toxic effect of drugs

– cancer

– chronic alcohol abuse

– accumulation of fat in the liver

Factors that increase the risk of developing liver disease or a related complication are:

– a high alcohol consumption

– the injection drugs or sharing needles

– unprotected sex

– exposure to certain chemicals or toxins

– diabetes

– obesity


Many conditions can cause liver pain, so it is important to determine which one is present. A doctor will perform a physical exam and review the person’s medical history.

Other possible tests are as follows

– blood tests to assess liver function or identify specific liver problems or genetic conditions.

– imaging tests, such as CT scan, MRI and ultrasound, to assess liver damage

– a tissue scan, which involves taking a sample of liver tissue to perform a lab test.

Sometimes liver pain goes away after making lifestyle changes, such as abstaining from alcohol, losing weight, or following a healthy diet. Other problems may require medication or surgery. In cases of liver failure, a liver transplant may be necessary.

Prevention of liver disease

To prevent liver disease, it is is advised to:

– drink alcohol in moderation

– avoid risky behaviors, such as Sharing drug needles and unprotected sex

– getting a hepatitis vaccine, if needed

– get tested for hepatitis, if necessary

– use medications wisely

– maintain a healthy weight.

Even with liver pain, proper treatment and lifestyle changes lead to a normal life.

Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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