Liver pain symptoms can be difficult to diagnose, because the pain might radiate from around the liver or abdomen, but not directly where it is located.
Symptoms vary from person to person as well, so determining an exact list of symptoms to look for is tricky.
The liver is the largest gland in the body. It sits to the right of the stomach, on top of the gallbladder, and weighs about three pounds.
This vital organ is triangular in shape and performs many vital functions for survival, including the production of and breaking down of hormones, the production of amino acids, and filtering toxic substances from the blood.
When liver pain symptoms occur, even if you aren’t certain as to the source of those symptoms, it’s best to seek medical advice for a diagnosis and treatment.
Liver Pain Symptoms
Liver pain tends to be felt in the upper right side of the abdomen beneath the lower ribs, and is often described as a vague or dull pain. You may not give it much thought at first, but if it continues for a week or more, then you need to seek medical advice.
Liver pain symptoms from alcohol abuse are one of the more common reasons for this pain. The liver becomes inflamed and swollen from years of excessive drinking, and the damage can lead to liver failure, which is fatal.
Jaundice, which is the yellowing of the face and the whites of the eyes, can be alarming if it’s quite bad. This symptom should be looked at by a doctor as soon as you see signs of it, and if it’s accompanied by any of the other symptoms below.
2. Abdominal Pain and Swelling
Gas can cause this symptom, but usually it passes within a few hours; if the swelling and pain is persistent, it’s an indication of something else.
3. Swelling in the Legs and Ankles
Edema is common in pregnant women and can be a side effect of some medications. If your ankles and legs start swelling independently of anything else, take note and discuss it with your doctor.
4. Itchy Skin
Dry skin can cause itchy skin, as can diabetes, but if neither of these apply to you, then you need to take note of when and how often your skin is itchy and if nothing relives it.
5. Dark Urine
As a general rule, urine should be a pale straw yellow in color, except first thing in the morning when it’s usually a darker yellow. As long as you’re not dehydrated, urine throughout the day should be light in color. If it’s consistently dark, see your doctor.
6. Stool Color
Pale, bloody, or tar-colored stool is not at all normal, so see a doctor if this is what you are eliminating, as it’s a cause for concern. Stools should be brown and in (mostly) one solid piece.
7. Chronic Fatigue
We all get tired, but chronic fatigue something else—it’s when you feel run down no matter how much you sleep or rest.
8. Nausea or Vomiting
Vomiting or feeling nauseated without signs of a flu or another gastrointestinal bug is a good indication that something isn’t right. See your doctor if it keeps up for more than 48 hours.
9. Loss of Appetite
When we don’t feel well, our bodies naturally turn away from food. Even if you don’t feel hungry be sure to get something into you, even if it’s just some broth and crackers.
10. Bruising Easily
Everyone gets bruises from time to time, but when they appear after, say, an activity that never left you bruised before, then you need to pay attention. Make note of when the bruise appeared and what caused it, if anything.
11. Fevers or Chills
You might experience a fever or you might feel cold a lot of the time. In some cases you might experience both at the same time or one after the other.
12. Unexplained Weight Loss
Losing weight rapidly is often a sign of something going wrong in the body, so don’t take it too lightly. Keep track of how much weight you have lost and in what amount of time.
Symptoms that require immediate medical attention include rapid heart rate, high fever, jerky movements, shortness of breath, severe pain, and vomiting blood.
Liver cancer pain symptoms include pain in the abdomen (which may move up through the right shoulder), a lump under the ribs, jaundice, weight loss, fatigue, weakness, changes in digestion habits, and changes in bowel habits.
As liver disease progresses and worsens, liver disease symptoms will include loss of appetite, lack of energy, weight loss or sudden weight gain, bruising, jaundice, itchy skin, fluid retention and swelling in the ankles, legs, and abdomen; in fact, swelling is often the first sign.
Treating Liver Pain Symptoms Naturally
There are a number of ways to treat liver pain naturally, and they all revolve around diet. Some of these remedies for liver pain symptoms are outlined below.
- Eat vegetables and fruit every day. Ideal vegetables for liver detoxification include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, beets, and celery. Juice them all up for a power-packed veggie drink!
- Incorporate ginger into your daily diet. Ginger is excellent for the digestive system and supports liver function and healing. Make a tea from ginger root by grating about a tablespoon’s worth of ginger, placing in a mug, and adding hot water. You can also add some honey if you like. Steep for 15 minutes and then drink.
- Eat sweet potatoes. The potassium content of this vegetable will help cleanse the liver.
- And speaking of potassium, it’s also good to have a banana every day. Bananas are high in potassium, which is important for liver support, and they also help remove toxins from the body, which means less work for your liver.
Preventing Liver Pain
Here are some tips to help prevent liver pain:
- Drink less alcohol. Excessive drinking is linked to liver damage and failure. Drink in moderation. For women and men over 65 this means one drink a day; two drinks a day for men under 65.
- Risky behavior should be curbed. Do not share needles for drugs and use condoms when having sex.
- Talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, if you haven’t already had these shots.
- Take prescription medication as indicated and do not mix it with alcohol.
- Maintain a healthy weight; being overweight can cause fatty liver pain symptoms and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Protect your skin from exposure to toxins such as pesticides and other toxic chemicals. The liver detoxifies the body, so help it out and stay away from excess toxins as much as possible.
When to See the Doctor
If you are experiencing continuous symptoms and pain, or if you experience the following symptoms along with some pain that can’t quite be precisely located, then see your doctor and discuss these and any other symptoms you might be experiencing.
Symptoms to watch for include:
- Memory problems
- Extreme fatigue
- Vomiting blood
If you experience pain in your shoulder or upper right abdomen, plus difficulty breathing, fatigue, pain with breathing, itchy skin, pain when coughing, or have an eating disorder, seek medical attention right away.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Alcohol-Related Liver Disease,” Healthline web site; http://www.healthline.com/health/alcoholism/liver-disease#Overview1, last accessed April 16, 2016.
“Signs and Symptoms of Liver Cancer,” Canadian Cancer Society web site; http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/liver/signs-and-symptoms/?region=on, last accessed April 16, 2016.