What is Hepatomegaly?
Hepatomegaly is the condition where the liver gets enlarged or swollen beyond its usual size. The liver is one of the largest organs of the body that helps in cleaning your blood and getting rid of the harmful chemicals in the body. Rather than a disease, Hepatomegaly is a sign of an underlying health condition i.e. congestive heart failure, cancer, hepatitis, liver diseases, etc.
Hepatomegaly symptoms may vary from individual to individual depending upon the severity of the condition, underlying health conditions, types of Hepatomegaly, etc. Most of the time one does not experience any symptom unless it is severely swollen. Some of the symptoms of Hepatomegaly that people are likely to experience are:
- Feeling full all the time
- Slight discomfort in the belly
- Weight loss
- Yellow tinge on the skin and eyes
Who is at Risk?
Hepatomegaly risk factors depend upon a lot of factors i.e. health problems, lifestyle, etc. Some people are genetically higher risk of Hepatomegaly than others. Certain red flags or reasons for Hepatomegaly might include:
- People with a family history of obesity, autoimmune disorders, liver cancers, etc.
- Inflammatory bowel diseases
- Chronic liver condition
- People who travel to countries with a higher risk of malaria
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Getting tattoos, blood transfusions or indulging in unprotected sex where one puts them at a higher risk of HIV, Hepatitis B, and C
Hepatomegaly causes vary depending upon how you have been affected, how long has it been, and other health factors. However, we have discussed some of the common causes of Hepatomegaly for you down below:
- Metastatic Cancer – Cancer that originates from some other organ and spreads to the liver
- Alcohol liver disease – liver damage that occurs due to fatty deposits, scarring or inflammation due to overconsumption of alcohol
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – liver damage that occurs due to buildup of fat in the liver for reasons different from alcohol consumption i.e. due to unhealthy food, inactive lifestyle or other health conditions
- Liver Cancer – the formation of cancerous cell inside or on the liver
- Cirrhosis – extensive damage or scarring of the liver due to alcohol, substance abuse, etc
- Hepatic Cysts – Fluid-filled sacs within the liver forming due to a variety of causes
How is Hepatomegaly diagnosed?
Located below the diaphragm, the liver is a triangular organ on the lower right ribcage. Enlargement of the liver can be felt with bare hands on the body. But at times, patients are unable to diagnose it on their own, and gastroenterologists’ diagnosis is important. Here is how a Hepatomegaly diagnosis can be done.
- Physical Examination – While one can feel an enlarged liver on their own by touching the lower right ribcage area, doctors also physically examine the area and establish if the liver is right in size or enlarged.
- Ultrasound – An ultrasound can help estimate the weight, size, and dimensions of the liver
- Blood and Urine Tests – testing complete blood count, urine compounds, etc can help in understanding the underlying cause of Hepatomegaly
- MRI or CT Scans – Imaging tests provide high-resolution images of the abdomen and other specific organs.
- Liver Biopsy – In rare cases, of severe liver conditions, liver biopsy is done to detect and start with treatment.
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How is Hepatomegaly treated?
Hepatomegaly treatment is based on the underlying condition and the cause of the disease for a person. Here are some of the treatments a Hepatomegaly doctor may undertake.
- Medicine for Hepatomegaly – During the initial stage, doctors usually recommend medicines for the treatment of Hepatomegaly. Oral medications for liver failure, damage, or infections are prescribed
- Therapy – Radiation, Chemotherapy, or surgery is undertaken to cure liver cancer
- Liver Transplant
- Lifestyle Changes – Doctor can refrain the person from drinking alcohol, smoking, etc and advise on active and healthy lifestyle
How can Hepatomegaly be prevented?
A lot of lifestyle factors are responsible for Hepatomegaly. As such, the prevention of Hepatomegaly can be done in some simple everyday habits. They include:
- Following an active and healthy lifestyle
- Limiting alcohol consumption to a healthy range or quitting it altogether
- Maintaining a healthy diet that balances calorie intake, and helps in keeping the weight as per the requirement
- Managing blood sugar well if the person is a diabetic
- Consulting doctor before consuming any health supplements, vitamin supplements, etc