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Liver Cysts

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Rare Liver Disease Summit Seeks to Improve Patient Health Outcomes

Rare Liver Disease Summit Seeks to Improve Patient Health Outcomes
American Liver Foundation brings together experts, patients and families in a virtual two-day event The American Liver Foundation (ALF) will bring together leading rare liver ...

Liver cysts are abnormal sacs filled with fluid in the liver.

  1. The cause of simple Liver Cysts isn’t known, but they may be the result of a malformation present at birth.
  2. Liver Cysts occur in approximately 5% of the population.

What causes liver cysts?

The cause of most liver cysts is unknown. Liver cysts can be present at birth or can develop at a later time. They usually grow slowly and are not detected until adulthood.

Some cysts are caused by a parasite, echinococcus that is found in sheep in different parts of the world.

What are the symptoms of liver cysts?

Most liver cysts do not cause any symptoms. However, if cysts become large, they can cause bloating and pain in the upper right part of your abdomen. Sometimes, liver cysts become large enough that you can feel them through your abdomen.

What are the complications of liver cysts?

Liver cysts can have rare complications of liver failure and liver cancer.

How are liver cysts diagnosed?

Since most liver cysts do not cause any symptoms, they usually are detected only on ultrasounds or computerized tomography (CT) scans. If symptoms do occur, a doctor may perform an abdominal CT scan to look at the liver.

A blood test will rule out a parasite as the cause of the liver cyst.

How are liver cysts treated?

Most liver cysts do not need to be treated. However, if cysts get large and painful, they may need to be drained or surgically removed. Cysts also may be surgically removed if they are stopping bile from reaching your intestine.

If a parasite is found, antibiotics are used for treatment.

What is polycystic liver disease?

Polycystic liver disease (PLD) is the development of multiple cysts in the liver. PLD cysts may cause pain, but they usually do not affect liver function. If PLD starts affecting liver function or becomes too painful, surgery may be needed. However, cysts can reoccur after surgery.

People with PLD are born with it, but usually do not have large cysts until they are adults. Polycystic liver disease is genetic. When it is found in one family member, all family members should be tested. PLD may be detected using an ultrasound or CT scan. It is more common in women than men.

Most people with PLD also have polycystic kidney disease (PKD), which are cysts in the kidneys that can cause high blood pressure and kidney failure. Sometimes a liver transplant and a kidney transplant may be necessary.

  • How do I know whether my cyst is benign or cancerous?
  • Have you seen many other patients with this particular condition?
  • Will I need to have a liver biopsy performed?
  • What kinds of scans are needed?
  • Can a cyst be removed if it is causing me discomfort?
  • If my cysts need to be removed, is there a specific specialist that I should be referred to?
  • Will my cyst be monitored to check on its size and location over a period of time?
  • If I have liver cysts, should I get other kinds of testing to check for cysts anywhere else in my body?
Healthy and Sick Livers

The Healthy Liver

A healthy liver has the amazing ability to grow back, or regenerate when damaged.


When treated successfully at this stage, there’s a chance your liver can heal itself.

Liver Cancer

Cirrhosis and hepatitis B are leading risk factors for primary liver cancer.

Liver Transplant

Removal of unhealthy liver and replace with a whole or portion of a healthy liver.

There are many different types of liver disease. But no matter what type you have, the damage to your liver is likely to progress in a similar way.

Whether your liver is infected with a virus, injured by chemicals, or under attack from your own immune system, the basic danger is the same – that your liver will become so damaged that it can no longer work to keep you alive.

Cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure are serious conditions that can threaten your life. Once you have reached these stages of liver disease, your treatment options may be very limited.

That’s why it’s important to catch liver disease early, in the inflammation and fibrosis stages. If you are treated successfully at these stages, your liver may have a chance to heal itself and recover.

Talk to your doctor about liver disease. Find out if you are at risk or if you should undergo any tests or vaccinations.

Clinical trials are research studies that test how well new medical approaches work in people. Before an experimental treatment can be tested on human subjects in a clinical trial, it must have shown benefit in laboratory testing or animal research studies. The most promising treatments are then moved into clinical trials, with the goal of identifying new ways to safely and effectively prevent, screen for, diagnose, or treat a disease.

Speak with your doctor about the ongoing progress and results of these trials to get the most up-to-date information on new treatments. Participating in a clinical trial is a great way to contribute to curing, preventing and treating liver disease and its complications.

Start your search here to find clinical trials that need people like you.

Last Updated on May 13, 2021


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