Pain in the liver can be caused by a variety of diseases and disorders, and pinpointing the exact cause can be difficult. However, there are a few causes of liver pain that are more common than others. Some of the more common liver pain causes include ascites, liver cancer, cirrhosis, hepatitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. It is possible to narrow down the cause of liver pain by looking at other symptoms you are experiencing in conjunction with the liver pain itself.
Ascites, once known as abdominal dropsy, is the accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity and is usually attributed to cirrhosis and liver disease. It can, however, be caused by other medical issues. Mild ascites may go unnoticed, but when severe it can lead to drastic abdominal distention, pressure in the abdomen, and pain in the liver or other organs. Ascites is usually accompanied by other symptoms related to the cause of the ascites. For example, those with cancer will also notice fatigue.
Liver cancer is another concern when liver pain is present, and presents with several symptoms in addition to liver pain. Loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, fatigue, abdominal swelling, jaundice (yellow skin or eyes), and white stools are all signs of liver cancer. If you experience liver pain with any of these other symptoms, it is important that you see a doctor right away to be evaluated.
Cirrhosis can also cause liver pain and, as with other causes, comes with a host of its own symptoms that can help identify whether cirrhosis is a cause of liver pain. Other symptoms of cirrhosis include edema (fluid retention) in the legs or abdomen, jaundice, nosebleeds, weight loss, confusion, itching, and frequent infections. If liver pain accompanies any of these symptoms, your doctor will need to run blood tests to rule out the possibility of cirrhosis.
Hepatitis is another possible cause of liver pain. Symptoms of hepatitis include abdominal/liver pain, fatigue, fever, jaundice, nausea, weight loss, and dark urine and pale or clay-colored stools. Hepatitis causes the liver to become swollen and inflamed, and is caused by a viral infection of the liver. It can also be caused by excessive alcohol consumption, a condition known as alcoholic hepatitis, and by drug use, known as drug-induced hepatitis. If left untreated, hepatitis can permanently damage the liver and can cause liver failure or liver cancer.
Probably the least serious of all causes of liver pain is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), in which abdominal pain and bloating is mistaken for liver pain. Other IBS symptoms include back pain, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain and cramping. IBS does not affect the liver and is treatable, though not curable.
Due to the seriousness of the most common liver pain causes, you should talk to your doctor right away if you experience liver pain combined with any other symptoms.