If you are experiencing pain in the region of the upper abdomen, especially over the right side, that pain could be associated with some kind of liver disease. It could however be unconnected to the liver at all. Also, a lot of the time, liver diseases are asymptomatic and produce no pain or discomfort whatsoever, so that when pain does occur in conjunction with liver disease, that is a sign that the disease has progressed to the point of being potentially quite serious.

Common Liver Problems And Pain

Fatty Liver

Fatty liver or fatty liver disease is a condition in which excess fat is found in the liver, accumulating fatty deposits along with the healthy liver tissue. This is the most common of all liver illnesses. It almost never produces pain or any other overt symptoms, and is not considered dangerous in itself. However, fatty liver can be a precursor to other, more serious liver diseases, so its detection is still cause for concern.

Cirrhosis Of The Liver

A very serious, progressive disease, cirrhosis takes the form of scarring and the accumulation of fibrous tissues (fibrosis). Over time, these fibrous growths replace more and more of the liver, resulting in loss of liver function. In later stages, cirrhosis can produce acute symptoms including both chronic and acute pain.


Hepatitis refers to a swelling of the liver. It can be caused by an infectious disease, particularly a group of viral diseases called infectious hepatitis types A, B, and C, and can also be caused by other factors. Sometimes the inflammation or swelling of the liver can produce localized pain without any general liver dysfunction symptoms being present. This is one of the few situations in which pain can be of much use in diagnosing liver disease.

Pain After Drinking

Alcohol abuse is one of the primary causes of liver disease. Alcohol can cause any of the diseases listed above. It’s natural, then, to believe that pains experienced after drinking may be due to damage to the liver from alcohol, especially when they occur in the abdominal region. However, the liver is not the only part of the body negatively affected by alcohol. If the pain occurs immediately after consumption of alcohol, it is more likely to be related to the digestive system than to liver damage.

That is not to suggest that alcohol abuse is not damaging the liver; it very likely is. But the damage needs to progress considerably before overt pain is likely as a result, and even then it will not be an immediate reaction to drinking alcohol but rather a result of damage to the liver accumulated over time. The exception to this is if the liver functioning is impaired in such a way that the extra strain put on the organ when it is called upon to metabolize alcohol causes pain. Again, this will only be likely when the damage to the liver has progressed a long way.

Pain After Eating

As with drinking, eating rich foods that require the use of bile for digestion (bile being a product of the liver important in digesting meats) may result in liver pain. Again, however, this is unlikely unless damage to the liver, whether from alcoholic or non-alcoholic causes, has progressed to a fairly late stage. In that event, other symptoms are also likely, such as jaundice, rashes, and visible swelling. Pain after eating is more likely to be a digestive system problem than one associated with the liver. If the pain occurs in conjunction with other symptoms of liver disease, though, that definitely calls for a doctor visit.

Pain After Exercise

Hard exercise can cause pains in a great many ways, from pulled muscles to chest pains associated with heart disease. Exercise puts a strain on the liver in several ways, much like eating a rich meal or drinking alcohol does. For that reason, if you are suffering from liver dysfunction due to advanced liver disease, you may experience pains in the upper-right abdomen following a workout. As with pains after eating or after drinking alcohol, this indicates in most cases a fairly advanced stage of liver disease.

Liver Tenderness

Liver tenderness refers to painful sensations when the upper abdomen, over the region of the liver, is pressed. When this occurs inĀ  conjunction with liver disease, an accompanying symptom is usually swelling of the liver, resulting in visible swelling of the upper abdomen especially on the right side. This is also a symptom that may appear in later stages of progressive liver diseases such as cirrhosis. However, it can also be a symptom of acute liver disease such as viral hepatitis.

Seeing A Doctor

Liver disease is never something to take lightly. If you are experiencing anything that might be liver pain, you should see a doctor about it. The problem with self-diagnosis here is that it’s very easy to confuse pain that is genuinely resulting from a problem with the liver with some other abdominal pain, such as a digestive disorder or a muscle pain. The abdomen is a very complex part of the body.

If you see a doctor with a complaint of what might be liver pain, you should expect to have some blood drawn for a liver function test. The doctor may also prescribe an ultrasound to look for visible signs of liver damage. If these tests are positive for damage to the liver, a liver biopsy may be undertaken to verify exactly what is going on.

On the other hand, it may be that no indication of liver disease will be found at all, and the pain will have a different source entirely. In all cases, though, a suspicion of liver disease should be followed up on with a doctor, as it is a potentially life-threatening condition that is more dangerous the longer it goes undetected.

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