Causes Of Enlarged Liver

Facts about the Causes of Enlarged Liver

            The liver is an important organ in the human body with many functions; one of the reasons that there can be many causes of enlarged liver.  Since the treatment prescribed depends on the specific cause for the condition, this will be one of the first things determined by the medical professional.

            Enlarged liver, or hepatomegaly, in itself is not considered to be a medical condition.  Rather, the issue causing the enlargement is the seat of the problem.  In a healthy adult individual, the liver is just about the size of a child’s football, weighing around 3 ½ pounds.  Located in the middle of the upper abdomen, the body’s largest solid organ stretches behind the ribs with the largest portion on the right side.  This location is ideal for the liver, as it is able to directly receive what is called “portal blood”, or blood that comes from the intestines, filtering and processing the nutrients within in quick fashion.  Its situation near the intestines and gallbladder enable it to connect precisely and straightforwardly to these organs to perform actions aiding in digestion.

            The functions performed by the liver are many.  Some of the processes are quite complex, and are much more involved than can be described in a few sentences.  The basic functions include:

*The manufacture of protein
*Assists in blood clotting
*Manufactures, processes and stores fats, fatty acids and cholesterol
*Processes and stores carbohydrates
*Creates bile which is secreted to the help absorb fats and fat soluble vitamins
*Ridding the system of potentially dangerous biochemicals produced in the body
*Detoxify medications, alcohol and toxins from the environment that have found their way into the body.

            Because of its major functions of manufacturing and secreting different substances, the liver is considered as one of the glandular organs.

            There are a few specific diseases that affect the liver in particular.  Hepatitis, cirrhosis and cancer are common to this valuable organ, which are caused mainly by abnormalities of the immune system, variations in the metabolic and genetic composition and viruses on an internal level, and drugs and alcohol on an external causal level.  Fatty liver is yet another condition affecting the organ, caused by the accumulation of excess fat in its cells.  There are also certain medications prescribed that can cause damage to the liver.

            One of the symptoms that can result from these diseases is an increase in size of the organ.  The individual with the condition may not even be aware that their liver has been affected; it is often discovered during a medical examination or from an abnormal blood test result.  The doctor can determine the approximate size of the liver; its position below the rib cage can estimate its size and texture.

            To discover the possible causes of enlarged liver in a patient, the doctor may order an x-ray or an ultrasound which can provide images of the organ.  More detailed information can be produced by a computerized tomography, or CT, scan.  In addition, special blood tests may be requested that can confirm or rule out the existence of certain diseases.  A biopsy can also be performed to aid the doctor in establishing the overall condition of the liver.


            There are steps an individual can take to ensure a healthier liver.  Limiting alcohol intake, monitoring the diet to exclude a high volume of fatty foods, safely decreasing body weight, check medications for side effects and stay within prescribed doses, be careful when taking herbal supplements, limit use of toxic chemicals and avoid combining drugs with alcohol.  See your doctor for regular physical exams to aid in early identification of problems.

            Any organ in the body needs our care and maintenance, but one with so many and such important functions as the liver deserves special attention.