6 Causes & Triggers of Enlarged Liver You Shouldn’t Ignore (List)

The liver is a critical organ; a person cannot survive without it. It does several vital bodily functions, such as regulating blood cholesterol and filtering toxins from the blood. Because the liver acts as a filter, it can suffer from an overload of toxins, which could lead to hepatitis or liver inflammation. 

An enlarged liver, medically termed hepatomegaly, means that the liver swells more than its normal size. The swelling could be a symptom of another illness, such as liver disease, a problem with your heart or blood, and a long list of other illnesses and diseases. An enlarged liver is not dangerous, although it could suffer from distress. Nevertheless, you should look out for the causes of its enlargement because any of them could be a warning or an emergency. 

You might not notice an enlarged liver, although you might feel fullness or bloating in your belly. Sometimes, you may feel an ache or pain in your upper right abdomen. Visit your doctor if you have symptoms such as fatigue, lack of appetite, jaundice, nausea, pruritus (itchy skin), swelling on the feet and legs, light-colored stools, and dark-colored urine. Please read on to learn what can cause hepatomegaly.

Viral Infections and Fatty Liver

Alcohol abuse is a common cause of hepatomegaly, as it could lead to fatty liver (hepatic steatosis). However, liver enlargement could also manifest in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In this scenario, the liver’s inflammation is caused by fat accumulation in the liver, causing fibrous tissues to form in the organ. 

A person who habitually drinks large amounts of alcohol can cause fats to build up in the liver (alcoholic fatty liver disease). However, there is also a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which encompasses several liver conditions which can affect non-alcohol drinkers. For example, you could have simple fatty liver (with fat but no inflammation) or non-alcoholic fatty liver (with inflammation and liver cell damage, which can cause liver scarring or fibrosis). This more serious condition could lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis. 

Heavy alcohol use could lead to alcoholic fatty liver disease. This is because the liver usually breaks down most alcohol a person consumes. But breaking down the alcohol leaves harmful substances that weaken the body’s defenses, boost inflammation, and damage the liver’s cells. Therefore, continuous alcohol consumption will damage your liver, leading to alcoholic fatty liver disease, which can eventually develop into alcoholic hepatitis, then liver cirrhosis.