An enlarged liver—a condition referred to as hepatomegaly—can be caused by many different conditions, as the liver is involved with many of the body's functions, and usually indicates liver disease. In many instances, you may not be aware that you have an enlarged liver until your health-care provider discovers it during an examination or test. In other cases, red spots known as angiomas may appear on your body, which will tip you off to the fact that something is wrong.
An angioma is a benign skin growth that is made up of small, radiating blood vessels. Angiomas can vary in size and appear anywhere on the body, although they most commonly appear on the trunk, arms and legs. Most angiomas occur for unknown reasons, but a large number of them may indicate liver damage. While angiomas in and of themselves are not dangerous, they can indicate an underlying condition that requires medical attention.
Treatment for Angiomas
Angiomas do not usually require treatment, unless they are bleeding or causing discomfort or pain. Angiomas can be treated with liquid nitrogen or laser therapy. Liquid nitrogen is a cold gas that is applied directly to angiomas that require removal, and laser therapy uses a beam of concentrated light to shrink and destroy the overgrowth of skin cells and blood vessels that have created the angiomas. Both types of treatment can cause some discomfort at the treatment site, but offer good cosmetic results. Angiomas can sometimes recur after treatment, particularly if the underlying condition that is causing them is not resolved.
Other Symptoms of Liver Enlargement
Symptoms of liver enlargement include jaundice, a condition that causes the skin to yellow due to excess amounts of bilirubin in the bloodstream, as well as pain, discomfort and a sense of fullness around the liver and in the abdomen. Because liver enlargement often indicates liver disease, you may also experience additional symptoms such as dark urine, pale stools, easy bleeding, an enlarged spleen or gallbladder, fluid in the abdominal cavity or abnormally high blood pressure in the vein that pumps blood to the liver.
Causes of Liver Enlargement
Alcohol abuse is a common cause of an enlarged liver. Fatty liver disease, liver cancer, hepatitis, leukemia and other blood disorders can also increase the size of the liver. Mononucleosis is an infection that can cause an enlarged liver, and hemochromatosis, a condition that results in the body absorbing and storing excess amounts of iron, can also increase the size of the liver, and in some cases even cause liver damage.
If you detect angiomas on your body, contact your family physician. Angiomas are harmless growths, but they can indicate liver enlargement or another underlying condition that requires medical attention.