A liver abscess is a pocket of pus that forms in your liver and is caused either by the spread of infection from somewhere else in your body or by trauma to your liver. Anybody can get a liver abscess but it’s a fairly rare condition.
The most common type is caused by a bacterial or parasitic infection and is technically called a pyogenic liver abscess.
There are many different types of infection that can cause a liver abscess to form but some of the most common are conditions such as appendicitis or diverticulitis, blood infections, surgery, and infection of the tubes that drain your bile from your gallbladder.
Regardless of how you contract it, it’s absolutely imperative that you treat it immediately and aggressively in order to keep it from rupturing and entering your bloodstream. Once this happens, you can get sepsis (a blood infection) and it can be life-threatening.
How Do I Know If I Have A Liver Abscess?
Symptoms of a liver abscess vary from person to person but can include a combination of the following:
• Unexplained weight loss and/or loss of appetite
• Dark urine and/or clay-colored stool
• Nausea (you may or may not vomit)
• Pain or sensitivity in the upper-right quadrant of your abdomen
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s extremely important that you speak with your doctor immediately because a liver abscess is treatable with antibiotic therapy but if it ruptures or spreads then treatment may not be effective.
In addition to the symptoms listed above, there are also some that indicate a life-threatening situation and you should call 911 immediately.
• Shortness of breath, wheezing, choking or labored breathing
• Sudden mental confusion, delusions or hallucinations
• Fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
• Severe abdominal pain
• Jerky movements
How Will My Doctor Diagnose a Liver Abscess?
If your doctor suspects that you have a liver abscess, he will conduct a series of tests that may include a CT scan, an ultrasound, blood tests, a complete blood count (CBC), a blood culture to determine if there’s bacteria, a white blood count or, in the worst case scenario, a liver biopsy.
Many of these tests also look for other causes such as a fatty liver, fibrosis or other liver problems in addition to testing for an abscess.
A liver abscess is extremely treatable but because of its nature can quickly become a much bigger problem. If left untreated, it can cause liver failure, sepsis, heart problems, pleural effusion (fluid accumulation around your lungs), and can spread throughout your body. Especially if it ruptures, it can become deadly so if you develop any of the symptoms below you need to contact your doctor.
Though many people develop a liver abscess through no fault of their own, you can lessen your risk by treating other infections quickly and taking antibiotics prescribed for those infections according to directions and for the entire cycle.