Liver cyst: what it is, symptoms, causes and when it is severe


Liver cyst, also called liver cyst, is a small fluid-filled sac located in the liver that usually does not cause symptoms. However, when the cyst is large or ruptures, it can cause symptoms such as pain on the right side of the belly, abdominal swelling, or nausea, for example.

This type of cyst can affect both women and men, but is more common in women, and can be present from birth due to a malformation of the bile ducts, but also occur in adulthood due to a parasite infection, or use of oral contraceptives.

The liver cyst usually does not require treatment, but in many cases it is indicated by the hepatologist, or general practitioner, periodic consultations and examinations to monitor the growth of the cyst. In more serious situations, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove the cyst.

main symptoms

Liver cysts usually have no symptoms, and most cases are discovered in routine exams.

However, when the cyst is large, increases in size, or ruptures, symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal pain on the right side, under the rib;
  • Abdominal swelling;
  • Weight loss or anorexia;
  • Nausea or vomiting;
  • Feeling of a full belly;
  • Fever above 38ºC;
  • Yellow skin and eyes;
  • Excessive tiredness.

In addition, in some cases, symptoms such as coughing up blood or itching in the body, intense pain in the abdomen and right shoulder may appear.

If these symptoms are present, a hepatologist or general practitioner should be consulted, so that the diagnosis can be made and the most appropriate treatment initiated.

How to confirm the diagnosis

The diagnosis of liver cyst is made by the hepatologist or general practitioner through the evaluation of symptoms and imaging tests, such as ultrasound, computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging.

In addition, the doctor may order blood tests, such as liver function tests or antigen tests, to check for infection with the parasite. Echinococcus granulosus which is one of the main causes of liver cyst. Understand what an infection is Echinococcus granulosus.

Possible causes

The exact cause of liver cyst is not known, however, several cases are observed where the cyst is present from birth, either due to a malformation of the bile ducts or due to genetic changes that cause polycystic liver disease.

In addition, liver cyst can also develop throughout life, due to infection by the parasite. Echinococcus granulosus or by the use of oral contraceptives or anabolic steroids, for example.

Types of liver cyst

Liver cyst can be classified according to its cause, the main ones being:

  • Simple cyst: it is the most common type of cyst, also known as hemangioma, which tends to be present from birth and is usually smaller than 4 cm in size, without causing symptoms;
  • Hydatid cyst: this type of cyst is caused by parasites, such as echinococcus, which are transmitted through contaminated food and water;
  • Neoplastic cyst: It is the rarest type of liver cyst that can be benign or malignant, such as cystadenoma or cystadenocarcinoma. They are usually multiple and large in size.

To identify the correct type of cyst, you should consult a hepatologist or general practitioner for tests, such as ultrasound or computed tomography, for example.

When is liver cyst dangerous?

Most of the time, liver cyst is not serious and is also not a sign of cancer, however, in some cases, the cyst can be dangerous, especially if it increases in size over time.

In addition, when the liver cyst is a benign neoplastic type, such as a cystadenoma, there is an increased risk of it becoming malignant (cystoadenocarcinoma) and leading to liver cancer. In this case, the doctor may recommend treatment with surgery to remove the tumor. Learn more about how liver cancer is treated.

How is the treatment done?

Treatment for a liver cyst should be guided by a hepatologist or general practitioner and depends on the type of cyst and its cause. In the case of a simple cyst, in which there are no symptoms or the cyst is up to 4 cm, it is usually not necessary to undergo any type of specific treatment. cyst growth.

In the case of cysts that cause symptoms, surgery to remove the cyst may be indicated by the doctor, which can be done by percutaneous aspiration or laparoscopy, for example. When malignancy is suspected, the surgeon can remove the cyst, take a sample of the fluid and do a biopsy in the laboratory, in order to understand whether there are cancerous cells or not.

If cancer cells are identified, treatment may also include further surgery to remove a part of the liver, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or, in some cases, a liver transplant, for example. See how a liver transplant is done.

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