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Liver cysts

The liver is the second largest organ in the body. It is located on the right side of the body, right under the rib cage. It appears like an American football that is flat on one side.

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The liver has the most important function within the body. It filters all the toxins, foreign matter as well as harmful substances from the blood. This organ also helps in processing all the energy and nutrients one gets after eating and drinking.

The liver has a smooth texture, a uniform shape and size normally. Formation of cysts on the liver is an abnormality and a sign of liver disease. This condition is also known as hepatic cysts.

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What are liver cysts?

Cysts are abnormal fluid filled sacs that grow on different parts of the liver and should not be confused with tumors. They could be further classified as simple liver cysts and polycystic liver disease.

Simple Liver Cysts:

Your liver contains bile ducts. The malformation of the bile ducts can lead to simple liver cysts. This is not an inherited condition.

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Polycystic Liver Disease (PLD):

Polycystic liver disease is an inherited disease in which multiple cysts of varying sizes form on the liver. The patient may also have malformed bile ducts.

Hydatid (echinicoccal) cysts:

These cysts are caused by infestation by a tapeworm Echinococcusgranulosus.The condition may remain asymptomatic for years or cause pain in the upper right abdomen.

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Who are at risk of having liver cysts?

Simple cysts can occur in any person and more common in adults than children.

PLD is an inherited condition, but it gets detected mostly at an advanced stage as the cysts begin to grow. Those with congenital hepatic fibrosis and polycystic kidney disease are more vulnerable.

What are the symptoms of liver cysts?

Liver cysts usually do not show any symptoms. However, if the cysts have grown larger and are crowding the liver, then one might experience a dull pain in the abdomen. The upper right side of the stomach will appear swollen and one suffers from jaundice (which is not very common).

When the cysts may rupture or begin to push against other organs, one may experience bloating, feeling of fullness or sudden pain in the right abdominal area. Echonococcal cysts can lead to fever, bloody sputum as well as skin itching. In case of E. mutilocularisinfestation, one may show symptoms similar to liver cancer or liver cirrhosis.

Complications of liver cysts

Although rare, some possible complications of liver cysts could be:

Cholangitis- inflammation of the bile ducts

Portal hypertension- Elevated pressure in the hepatic portal vein

Pressure on the surrounding tissues and organs due to enlargement of liver

Infection and bleeding in the cysts

When to see a doctor?

Usually people do not sense any abnormalities and liver cysts get detected only during a routine medical exam or while undergoing other diagnostic tests. However, if you experience the aforementioned symptoms, then you must seek doctor’s help. If some of your family members had polycystic liver disease, then it’s better to get tested for it.

Diagnosis of liver cysts

Your doctor will check your family history for cysts and carry out a general physical exam. Presence of cysts in your liver can be confirmed with imaging studies like X-ray, ultrasound, CAT scan, and MRI.

Diagnosis of polycystic liver disease may require additional tests which include liver function tests to detect inflammation of the liver and intravenous pyelogram of the kidneys.

Treatment of liver cysts

Both simple and polycystic types do not require treatment unless they have grown large enough to induce abdominal pain and blockage in the bile duct. Under such circumstances, your doctor would perform an aspiration which involves draining the fluid from the cysts with a needle guided by an ultrasound.

In case of polycystic liver disease, cyst fenestration or de-roofing may be advised to remove the cyst wall. If all these techniques fail, your cysts recur and interfere with normal functioning of the liver then liver resection surgery and liver transplantation are the last options.

Although there’s no way to prevent the formation of liver cysts, most people with liver cysts are able to lead a normal life. The medical treatments are also substantially effective.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: February 22, 2015