Enlarged Liver

A liver that is enlarged is larger than usual. Hepatomegaly is the word used medically. An enlarged liver is not an illness, but rather a symptom of an underlying condition such as liver disease, congestive heart failure, or cancer. The cause of the ailment must be found and controlled as part of treatment.

Enlarged Liver: Causes

The liver is a sizable organ with a football-like shape that is located in the upper right corner of your belly. Age, sex, and physical size all affect the liver's size. It can expand due to a variety of factors, including −

  • Liver ailments

  • Cirrhosis

  • Hepatitis brought on by infectious mononucleosis or a virus, such as hepatitis A, B, or C

  • Alcohol-unrelated fatty liver disease

  • Alcohol-related fatty liver illness

  • A condition that results in your liver accumulating aberrant proteins (amyloidosis)

  • Wilson's illness is a hereditary condition that results in copper accumulating in the liver.

  • A condition that results in iron building up in your liver (hemochromatosis)

  • A condition (Gaucher's disease) that makes fatty substances build up in your liver

  • Liver pockets filled with fluid (liver cysts)

  • Hepatic tumors that are not malignant, such as hemangiomas and adenomas

  • Obstruction of the bile ducts or gallbladder

Cancers caused by toxic hepatitis −

  • Liver cancer first develops in another area of the body

  • Leukemia

  • Liver tumor

  • Lymphoma

Cardiovascular and blood vessel issues −

  • Obstruction of the liver's draining veins (Budd-Chiari syndrome)

  • Heart attack

  • Inflammation of the heart's pericardial tissue (pericarditis)

Enlarged Liver: Symptoms

Sometimes an enlarged liver is asymptomatic.

When liver disease causes an enlarged liver, these symptoms may also be present −

  • Continent pain

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea and diarrhea

  • Whites of the eyes and skin become yellow (jaundice)

Enlarged Liver: Risk Factors

Several factors play an important role in the development of enlarged liver which includes −

  • Excessive drinking. Significant alcohol use can harm your liver.

  • Large dosages of supplements, vitamins, or medications. You run a higher risk of liver damage if you take more vitamins, supplements, over-the-counter (OTC), or prescription medications than is advised.

  • The most frequent cause of acute liver failure in the US is acetaminophen overdose. In addition to being a component in over 600 OTC and prescription drugs, it is also found in OTC painkillers like Tylenol.

  • Herbal remedies. The chance of developing liver damage may be increased by taking some supplements, such as valerian, ma huang, and black cohosh.

  • Infections. The risk of liver damage might rise if you have an infectious condition, be it viral, bacterial, or parasitic.

  • Virus-causing hepatitis. A, B, and C strains of hepatitis may harm the liver.

  • Improper eating practices. Being overweight and consuming unhealthy meals, such as those high in fat or sugar, both raise your chance of developing liver disease.

Enlarged Liver: Diagnosis

The diagnosis of the enlarged liver is mainly done based on history and some of the tests may be required for confirmation and to rule out underlying causes

During a physical examination, your doctor may begin by palpating your abdomen to assess the size, shape, and texture of your liver. This might not be sufficient to identify an enlarged liver, though.

Your doctor could suggest further exams and treatments if you have an enlarged liver, such as −

  • A blood test. The amount of liver enzymes in the blood is examined, and viruses that can expand the liver are found.

  • Image-based exams. MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound are imaging exams.

  • Sound waves are used in magnetic resonance elastography to provide a visual representation of the stiffness of liver tissue called an elastogram. A liver biopsy may not be necessary if this non-invasive test is used instead.

Enlarged Liver: Treatment

The treatment is based on the severity of the symptoms. Your doctor may advise conservative or surgical treatment.

  • The ailment that is producing the enlarged liver must be treated.

  • The emphasis of ALD treatment is alcohol use disorder management. One or more of the following may be present −

  • Addressing any co-occurring or concomitant mental health disorders through supervised medical detoxes behavioral treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or motivational enhancement therapy, family counseling, and group therapy.


The underlying etiology of NAFLD influences the course of therapy. The following are some potential therapies −

Modifying one's diet to reduce cholesterol and fat consumption, achieving or maintaining a healthy weight, regulating blood sugar levels, and treating underlying medical disorders such as type 2 diabetes


Whether liver cancer is primary or secondary affects the course of treatment in part. The size and stage of the cancer are other considerations to take into account. Among the proposed therapies are −

  • Radiation and chemotherapy

  • Liver transplant

  • Immunotherapy

  • Surgery to remove the tumor

Enlarged Liver: Prevention

Some of the measures that can help to prevent enlarged liver include −

  • Adopt a balanced diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is recommended.

  • If you do consume alcohol, do it in moderation. If you want to know how much alcohol is ok for you, consult your doctor.

  • While using supplements, vitamins, or medicines, adhere to the directions. Just take the appropriate dosages.

  • Minimize your exposure to chemicals. Only use harmful chemicals like pesticides and aerosol cleansers in well-ventilated spaces. Put on a mask, long sleeves, and gloves.

  • Keep a healthy weight. Limit items that are heavy in sugar and fat and eat a balanced diet. Ask your doctor or a nutritionist for advice on how to lose weight successfully if you are overweight.

  • Give up smoking. See your doctor for advice on how to stop smoking.

  • Take caution when using supplements. Before using herbal supplements, discuss the advantages and disadvantages with your doctor. Your liver may be harmed by some therapies from alternative medicine. Black cohosh, ma huang, and other Chinese herbs, comfrey, germander, greater celandine, kava, pennyroyal, skullcap, and valerian are among the plants and supplements to stay away from.


The medical word for an enlarged liver is hepatomegaly. It can be a symptom of a deeper illness. Hepatitis, cancer, fatty liver disease, and alcohol use disorders are a few illnesses that can result in hepatomegaly.

Hepatomegaly can exist without a person being aware of it. But, if the liver grows noticeably larger, a person could feel pain or a sense of being full in the upper right side of the abdomen. If a person notices a problem with their liver and gets help right away, certain liver disorders are curable. Anybody worried about the condition of their liver should get a diagnosis from a physician.

Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha
Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha


Updated on: 21-Apr-2023


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