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Liver Cysts: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Discover important facts about liver cysts, including their causes, symptoms, and treatment. You’ll also find out some recommended diet tips for liver health.

Cysts on the liver are not terribly common, but they can be the source of unnecessary anxiety.

If a doctor determines that you have a cyst on your liver, fears about the implications of a mass growing on this valuable organ can skyrocket. However, these fears have little substantiation for the majority of people with liver cysts,

Liver cysts occur in about 5 percent of the population. They are thin-walled sacs filled with air, fluids, or semi-solid material. Besides air and fluid, liver cysts can be filled with fat in those with a fatty liver.

The majority of cysts are benign, meaning they are not cancerous.

Liver Cyst Treatment

Liver cysts are typically asymptomatic and do not require treatment. Nonetheless, a small percentage of cysts on the liver are large enough to cause discomfort or pain.

3 Important Facts About Liver Cysts

  1. They are typically detected via ultrasound or computerized tomography (CT) scans.
  2. They can be drained or surgically removed when necessary.
  3. Cysts usually appear singularly, although a small portion of those affected have multiple cysts.

Liver Cyst Symptoms

Liver cysts are not likely to cause symptoms.

Though, when they do occur, the symptoms will most likely manifest as:

One symptom of liver cysts is pain in the liver area.

  • upper abdominal fullness,
  • discomfort
  • or pain in the liver area.

What Causes Cysts on the Liver?

Clinicians are uncertain as to why people develop cysts on their liver. Some speculate that liver cysts may be the result of a malformation present at birth.

Besides the suspicion that people may be born with a predisposition to liver cysts, some practitioners believe that simple liver cysts arise because a small area of liver cells die or degenerate. This evolution is believed to be due to aging in concert with poor diet and lifestyle choices.

This leads us to another key question: are there special foods you should eat to treat liver cysts?

Liver Cyst Treatment Diet

There is no specific diet to follow if you are diagnosed with a liver cyst. Although, it’s beneficial for anyone who has liver issues, or even people who haven’t been diagnosed with a liver issue, to eat clean and stick to a fatty liver diet.

Blueberries are great to eat for liver heatlh.

Knowing which foods you should avoid (such as alcohol and sugar), as well as those you should keep or add into your diet (such as fruits, veggies, whole grains and protein) is imperative to maintaining the health of your liver.

3 Causes of Liver Cysts That May Require Treatment

Liver cysts are typically harmless and are rarely indicative of a serious, underlying condition.

However, a small percentage of liver cysts are due to:

1) Polycystic liver disease (PLD)

Occurring in just 0.6 percent of the general population, this genetic disorder describes the development of multiple cysts in the liver. Although it may cause pain, PLD usually does not impact liver function unless it becomes severe.

Polycystic liver disease is more common in women than men and may co-exist with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) – cysts in the kidneys that can cause high blood pressure and kidney failure.

Advanced cases of PLD and PKD may require liver and/or kidney transplants.

2) Echinococcus granulose

This parasitic infection causes Hydatid disease, a result of humans ingesting dog tapeworm.

Hydatid disease usually occurs in areas where sheep and cattle are raised, and may require treatment of the cysts to avoid rupture.

Hydatid disease usually occurs in areas where sheep and cattle are raised, and may require treatment of the cysts to avoid rupture.

In general, good hygiene and regular worming of dogs can prevent Hydatid disease.

A blood test can rule out this parasite, which is extremely rare in the U.S.

3) Liver cancer

Probably the biggest fear upon discovering a liver cyst is that it can turn into liver cancer.

Can liver cysts develop into liver cancer?

Simple liver cysts are not cancerous; however, cystic tumors are growths that may become malignant over the course of many years.

Cystic tumors contain both liquid and solid areas and should be removed surgically because of the possibility of malignancy. The recurrence rate after surgical removal of cystic tumors is very low and the long-term prognosis is excellent.


In general, simple liver cysts (singular and filled with air or fluid) do not pose a hazard to people’s health.

However, a liver cyst caused by polycystic liver disease or echinococcus granulose needs to be addressed.

In addition, cystic tumors in the liver and cysts filled with solid material have the potential to turn into liver cancer, so this more complex sub-category of liver cysts must be dealt with swiftly., Liver Cysts, Retrieved June 19, 2016, The Regents of the University of California, 2016., Liver Cysts and Tumors, Retrieved June 19, 2016, Cleveland Clinic, 2016., Are Liver Cysts a Sign of Cancer?, Dr. Otis Brawley, Retrieved June 19, 2016, Cable News Network, 2016., Liver Cysts, Retrieved June 19, 2016, Emory Healthcare, 2016., Liver Cysts, Retrieved June 19, 2016, Liver Doctor, 2016., Liver Cysts, Retrieved June 19, 2016, American Liver Foundation, 2016., Can Liver Cysts Cause Abdominal Pain?, Michael F. Picco, MD, Retrieved June 19, 2016, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2016.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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