In most cases, no treatment is necessary for liver calcification. The condition is not a disease or illness in itself, but it may indicate the presence of another illness, however, which may require treatment. Occasionally, liver calcification may accompany a tumor or lesion on the organ. In this case, the mass will likely to be removed.
Calcification occurs when the liver is damaged or stressed by an outside source. This can include disease as well as alcohol consumption, and the calcium deposits which are detected on the organ are generally there as a protective measure against further injury. Additional causes of calcification are infection, injury to the liver, and certain viral diseases.
When the offending disease or condition is no longer present, there is often no necessary treatment for liver calcification. Further monitoring may be needed to rule out continued infection or disease. This is especially true in very young babies or children.
Sometimes calcification can occur in infants due to infection during birth. Most commonly this is caused by meconium which enters the abdomen and causes infection. Long-term complications are uncommon, although sometimes a calcified mass or tumor can result. These are generally non-cancerous, but they are often surgically removed to prevent problems.
When an underlying illness or another condition is still present along with liver calcification, treatment generally includes proper remedies for this condition. Those who drink frequently are generally urged to stop, and those who eat fatty foods or lead a sedentary lifestyle are generally encouraged to eat healthier and engage in regular physical activity. Liver disease like cancer or cirrhosis of the liver may require more thorough treatment.
Treatment for serious liver disease can include dialysis, medications, and sometimes a transplant. Leading a healthier lifestyle and avoiding certain substances is also important. Infection may be treated with antibiotics or other drugs.
Sometimes liver calcification has no known cause. In this case patients are typically monitored but do not require treatment unless a cause is found. Certain medications may also lead to calcification. If calcified cysts grow, they may require surgery. Calcified cysts are masses which form from large quantities of calcium accumulating on the liver. Sometimes these cysts go away on their own over time without treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of Liver Calcification?
The exact symptoms experienced by people with a calcified liver depend on the reason behind the calcification. Liver calcification due to infection might cause pain, fever, nausea, jaundiced appearance (yellowing of the skin or eyes), changes in coloration of urine or fecal matter, or fatigue. If a tumor or lesion is the cause of the calcification then a person might experience any of these symptoms as well. In addition, a tumor or lesion might also cause significant weight loss or decreases in appetite and bloating and swelling of the abdomen. In cases where trauma leads to calcification, the most common symptoms are those of the injury itself, such as pain, bleeding, bruising, and abdominal tenderness.
Fetal liver calcification can be caused by any of the above problems and present many of the same symptoms. There is an additional possible cause of fetal liver calcification as well. In some cases, liver calcification in a fetus is present because of chromosomal abnormalities. If the calcification is caused by or related to any chromosomal abnormalities, the infant may suffer from mental, neurological, learning, or physical disabilities. The most common chromosomal abnormality found along with fetal liver calcification is trisomy 13 or Patau syndrome. This syndrome results from having an extra thirteenth chromosome present in a baby's DNA makeup. Unfortunately, many infants born with this issue do not survive past their first few weeks of life.
What Is Fatty Liver Calcification?
Fatty liver calcification often coincides with fatty liver disease, or as doctors call it, hepatic steatosis. Fatty liver disease occurs when a person consumes too many of the wrong types of food or too many calories in general. Usually, a fatty liver is seen in people who are obese, diabetic or have high levels of cholesterol or triglycerides in their system. This disease is also known to result from ingesting excessive amounts of alcohol. Fatty liver disease occurs when the liver stores too much fat or does not process the fat as it should and normally would. Generally, treatment involves reducing the risk factors and treating the other conditions, like obesity and diabetes, that are associated with it.
Often, fatty livers exhibit no noticeable symptoms. Sometimes people experience fatigue and slight pain or discomfort in their upper right abdomen. More advanced stages of fatty livers can lead to scarring called cirrhosis and eventually, liver failure. As the problem advances, symptoms often include jaundice, enlarged blood vessels, red palms, enlarged spleen, and abdominal bloating or swelling. At this point, many people report feeling significant amounts of abdominal pain and discomfort as well. Doctors mostly treat advanced fatty liver issues with strict diet and exercise regimens, including abstaining from alcohol entirely.
Can Ultrasound Detect Liver Calcification?
Ultrasounds and other radiological imaging tests often detect liver calcification. Depending on the root cause, liver calcification might show up on an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI. Usually, these calcified spots flare bright or white in these images. Doctors may find this issue while looking for other issues or they may search for it directly based on medical history and lifestyle choices. In cases of fetal liver calcification, routine ultrasounds of the fetus, looking for general growth and health patterns, may expose one or more liver calcifications. If any liver calcifications are noticed on a fetus, doctors will often also search for calcifications in other areas of the fetus, to try to figure out what might be causing them.
While radiology imaging tests often provide the most accurate diagnosis and find liver calcification the most often, doctors rely on additional tests and procedures as well. Physical examinations and thorough discussions regarding personal medical history, habits, activity levels, diet, and family medical history all help a doctor determine what health risk factors a person exhibits. These examinations and discussions can lead a doctor to perform one or more radiology tests to find issues like liver calcification. In cases of liver calcification especially, where the symptoms are often insignificant if present at all, these procedures are essential to determining if a person warrants further testing or not. Doctors may also use blood tests, like liver enzyme, lipid profile, and blood sugar tests to help them determine if liver calcification or liver disease is present. Finally, some medical professionals may even suggest getting a liver tissue test or biopsy to look for calcification.
Liver calcification is often a silent issue for many people, but one that can have severe and even deadly consequences. The best way to counteract it is to prevent it by maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.
Liver Calcification Symptoms
Liver calcification itself usually does not present any symptoms. It is typically discovered when you have routine blood work done. If an abnormality is found, you may have an X-ray or CT scan that points to the calcification.
Calcification occurs because the body is trying to heal damage, which means that you likely had or have an infection, virus, or injury. If this is the case, then you may notice some symptoms. The most common ones include pain in the right abdomen, yellow skin or eyes related to jaundice, pale stool, dark urine, fatigue, and itchy skin. You may also experience nausea, vomiting, or swelling in the legs, ankles, and abdomen.
Is Calcification in Liver Dangerous?
Most of the time, liver calcification is not dangerous and does not require any special treatment. However, because it often indicates an underlying illness, infection, or injury, it is important to undergo thorough testing in case you need to treat the source of the problem.
On rare occasions, liver calcification occurs due to a lesion or tumor on it. If this is the case, you will need to undergo surgery to have the mass removed and ensure it is not cancerous. Sometimes there is no known cause of calcification of the liver. When this happens, you'll likely be monitored but will not need any treatment unless or until the underlying cause is found.
Occasionally, cysts grow on the liver and become calcified. These masses occur when too much calcium accumulates on the liver. Sometimes these cysts go away on their own, but if they grow to be too large, you will need to have surgery to remove them.
Is Liver Calcification Cancerous?
Most of the time, calcification of the liver is not cancerous. Even so, most doctors will want to do testing to rule it out because untreated malignant tumors can cause calcium deposits to form. To find out if the calcification is the result of a cancerous tumor, your doctor will perform a biopsy of your liver. The tissue is then sent to a medical laboratory for testing. Whether or not there are cancerous cells found in the biopsy will determine what your next course of action should be.
How To Prevent Liver Calcifications
There is no surefire way to prevent liver calcification since there are so many underlying causes that can contribute to it. However, because one of the underlying causes is the overconsumption of alcohol, cutting back or quitting drinking can help to prevent the problem. It also helps to eat a healthy diet. If you are over the age of 65, go to the doctor regularly and have your blood tested, which can help to determine if there is too much calcium in your body and what you should do to prevent further calcification.
Keep in mind that some medications may also affect the level of calcium in your body. This includes hormone replacement therapy medications, blood pressure medications, and cholesterol medications. Even taking calcium carbonate supplements (over-the-counter indigestion or heartburn medication) can cause too much calcium to build up in your system, including in your liver.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is liver calcification?
Liver calcification is a condition in which calcium deposits form nodules or plaques in the liver. It may be brought on by a number of underlying conditions, including liver disease, certain drugs, and specific metabolic problems. It may sometimes be a sign of major health issues such as cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, or hepatitis.
What are the symptoms of liver calcification?
In most cases, liver calcification is symptomless. Nevertheless, symptoms including jaundice, stomach discomfort, weariness, lack of appetite, and weight loss may occur if the illness is brought on by an underlying ailment like liver disease. In rare circumstances, calcification may result in bile duct obstruction in the liver, which can cause jaundice, itching, and dark urine.
How is liver calcification diagnosed?
Imaging studies such as ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI are often used to identify liver calcification. Doctors can see the calcium deposits in the liver thanks to these tests. In order to rule out any further disorders that could be causing the calcification, a doctor may also request blood testing.
What are the treatments for liver calcification?
The etiology of liver calcification affects the course of treatment. If the condition is caused by an underlying condition, such as liver disease, the doctor will address the underlying issue. If a medicine is to blame for the calcification, the doctor may change the patient's dose or prescribe a new drug. The calcification may sometimes go away on its own without any medical intervention.
Are there any complications associated with liver calcification?
Complications may occur depending on the cause and degree of the calcification. The risk of liver failure and other severe consequences rises if the calcification is brought on by an underlying illness like cirrhosis. Furthermore, jaundice, itching, and black urine may result if the calcification blocks the bile ducts. Liver calcification may sometimes raise the risk of cancer.