An enlarged liver is one that's bigger than normal. The medical term is hepatomegaly (hep-uh-toe-MEG-uh-le).
Rather than a disease, an enlarged liver is a sign of an underlying problem, such as liver disease, congestive heart failure or cancer. Treatment involves identifying and controlling the cause of the condition.
An enlarged liver can have many possible causes.
An enlarged liver might not cause symptoms.
When enlarged liver results from liver disease, it might be accompanied by:
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have symptoms that worry you.
The liver is a large, football-shaped organ found in the upper right portion of your abdomen. The size of the liver varies with age, sex and body size. Many conditions can cause it to enlarge, including:
You're more likely to develop an enlarged liver if you have a liver disease. Factors that can increase your risk of liver problems include:
Large doses of medicines, vitamins or supplements. Taking larger than recommended doses of vitamins, supplements, or over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medicines can increase your risk of liver damage.
Acetaminophen overdose is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the United States. Besides being the ingredient in OTC pain relievers such as Tylenol, it's in more than 600 medications, both OTC and prescription.
Know what's in the medications you take. Read labels. Look for "acetaminophen," "acetam" or "APAP." Check with your doctor if you're not sure what's too much.
To reduce your risk of liver disease, you can:
Use supplements with caution. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of herbal supplements before you take them. Some alternative medicine treatments can harm your liver.
Herbs and supplements to avoid include black cohosh, ma huang and other Chinese herbs, comfrey, germander, greater celandine, kava, pennyroyal, skullcap, and valerian.
Your doctor might start by feeling your abdomen during a physical exam to determine liver size, shape and texture. However this might not be enough to diagnose an enlarged liver.
If your doctor suspects you have an enlarged liver, he or she might recommend other tests and procedures, including:
A liver biopsy is a procedure to remove a small sample of liver tissue for laboratory testing. A liver biopsy is commonly performed by inserting a thin needle through your skin and into your liver.
Treatment for enlarged liver involves treating the condition that's causing it.
You're likely to start by seeing your primary care doctor. If your doctor suspects you have an enlarged liver, he or she might refer you to the appropriate specialist after testing to determine the cause.
If you have a liver disease, you might be referred to a specialist in liver problems (hepatologist).
Here's information to help you get ready for your appointment.
When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as fasting before having a specific test. Make a list of:
Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you're given.
For enlarged liver some questions to ask your doctor include: