Hepatomegaly is the enlargement of the liver beyond its normal size. This condition is a symptom of a disorder in the liver or organs related to the liver, such as the gallbladder. Hepatomegaly can cause complaints in the form of an enlarged stomach, pain in the upper right abdomen, or jaundice.
The liver is the largest organ in the body. This organ has a variety of functions, ranging from cleaning the blood of harmful substances, producing substances needed by the body, to storing energy and nutritional reserves.
In a healthy adult, the normal liver measures around 13.5–14.5 cm. An enlarged liver beyond the normal size can be a symptom of a health disorder, such as liver disease .
An enlarged liver or hepatomegaly needs to be dealt with immediately, because it can be a sign of a dangerous condition, such as heart failure or cancer.
Causes of Hepatomegaly
Hepatomegaly can be caused by liver disease or disorders in other organs. Some conditions or diseases that can cause hepatomegaly are:
- Viral infections, especially hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C
- Infections from other organs, such as typhus or typhoid fever
- Liver abscess or liver cyst
- Fatty liver disease caused by alcoholic beverages or NASH ( non-alcoholic fatty liver disease )
- Tumor, liver cancer, or spread (metastasis) of cancer from other organs to the liver
- Blood disorders or diseases, such as leukemia , lymphoma, or hemolytic anemia
- Diseases of the gallbladder and its ducts, such as primary biliary cirrhosis or cholangitis
- Heart disease, such as congestive heart failure
- Genetic disorders, for example Wilson's disease
- Diseases of blood vessels in the liver, such as Budd-Chiari Syndrome
- Exposure to poisons, such as carbon tetrachloride
Hepatomegaly can attack anyone. However, some of the factors below can increase a person's risk of suffering from hepatomegaly:
- Experiencing alcohol addiction
- Consuming drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements with excessive doses, and without the advice of a doctor
- Suffering from an autoimmune disease or an infectious disease
- Being overweight or obese
Symptoms of Hepatomegaly
Patients with hepatomegaly can experience various symptoms when the size of the liver is very large. These symptoms can include:
- Abdominal pain, especially in the upper right part
- Stomach feels full
- Nausea and vomiting
- The stomach looks enlarged
- Muscle pain
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes ( jaundice )
The symptoms that appear due to hepatomegaly can also depend on the underlying disease. For example, hepatomegaly due to liver infection can cause symptoms such as fever and abdominal pain.
Whereas in hepatomegaly caused by heart failure, symptoms that can appear include shortness of breath, chest pain, and swelling in the limbs.
When should you go to the doctor?
Check with your doctor if you experience the symptoms mentioned above. An early examination is needed to find out the cause of hepatomegaly.
You also need to immediately seek medical help if the symptoms you experience get worse, especially if accompanied by vomiting blood , bloody stools, or shortness of breath.
If you suffer from a disease that can cause hepatomegaly, do a routine checkup with a doctor to get the right treatment.
Diagnosis of hepatomegaly
The doctor will ask questions about the symptoms experienced, as well as the patient's health history and medications being consumed. The doctor will also perform a comprehensive physical examination, among other things by looking at changes in the color of the skin and eyes, as well as enlargement of the abdomen.
If the patient is suspected of suffering from hepatomegaly, the doctor will perform several supporting examinations, such as:
- Blood test , to check liver function and detect infection or anemia
- Abdominal ultrasound , to identify enlargement of the liver or surrounding organs
- CT scan and MRI, to see the condition, shape, and size of the heart more clearly
- Liver biopsy , to detect abnormal cell growth, including tumors and liver cancer
Hepatomegaly treatment will be tailored to the cause. In general, some methods of treating hepatomegaly are:
- Antiviral , to treat hepatitis caused by a viral infection
- Chemotherapy , radiotherapy, or surgery, to overcome hepatomegaly caused by cancer
- Discontinuation or replacement of drugs, for hepatomegaly caused by the use of certain drugs
In addition to undergoing medical treatment, hepatomegaly sufferers also need to do the following:
- Stop drinking alcoholic beverages
- Consume healthy, nutritious and balanced food
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain an ideal weight
Complications of Hepatomegaly
Complications that can appear as a result of hepatomegaly depend on the underlying cause. A number of complications that can occur if the cause of hepatomegaly is not immediately addressed are:
- Liver cancer
- Heart failure
- Portal hypertension
Prevention of Hepatomegaly
Hepatomegaly can be prevented by taking care of the health of the liver and other organs related to the liver. Some of the efforts that can be made are:
- Consume balanced nutritious food , as well as increasing the intake of vegetables, fruits, and grains
- Avoiding the consumption of alcoholic beverages
- Consume medicines according to the dosage prescribed by the doctor
- Maintain an ideal weight
- Exercise regularly
- No smoking
- Do not use drugs
- Have safe sex to avoid hepatitis B and hepatitis C
- Undergo hepatitis vaccination
- Wear PPE correctly, especially when working as a medical officer
- Wash hands with soap and running water routinely
- Be careful in choosing snacks because hepatitis E can be transmitted through food contaminated with the hepatitis E virus