Hepatomegaly is a symptom that reflects an increase in liver size. The liver can increase in volume in the case of many conditions including:
- an inflammatory reaction in the case of a viral infection: such is the case with hepatitis, whether acute or chronic;
- hepatic steatosis, invasion of the liver tissue by fat due to eating too much or excessive alcohol consumption;
- liver cirrhosis, frequently of alcoholic origin;
- a benign tumor of the liver;
- malignant tumors, including hepatocellular carcinoma, often in response to cirrhosis;
- heart failure, especially in the right heart leading to the stagnation of blood;
- an inflammatory reaction in the case of a parasitic infection including schistosomiasis;
- a disease known as overload hemochromatosis, with an iron overload or Wilson's disease with a copper overload;
- an anomaly affecting the elimination of bile, such as primary biliary cirrhosis;
Hepatomegaly manifests itself by an increasing size of the liver. However, there are other associated signs that are often present, such as:
- localized pain in the region of the liver;
- loss of appetite;
- diarrhea or bowel dysfunction;
- nausea or vomiting;
Hepatomegaly is often palpable in the abdomen. However, it can also be discovered via imaging, usually an ultrasound or CT scan. It is easy to confirm the presence of hepatomegaly and additional examinations will be used to find the cause. A blood and a liver imaging assessment will often be necessary.
The treatment of hepatomegaly will be the treatment of the case. It may be a surgical removal, in the case of tumor, stopping the use of alcohol in the case of alcoholic cirrhosis, lifestyle changes including lowering fat intake if steatosis, or the use of drugs acting against excess copper or iron respectively in Wilson's disease and hemochromatosis.
Regarding the treatable causes of hepatomegaly, it is advisable to avoid excessive alcohol consumption and not to eat too much fat, because both promote the development of steatosis and cirrhosis of the liver with increased risk of liver cancer.