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Liver Calcification: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Medically reviewed by Dr Rohan J Harsoda – MBBS, DNB(General Surgery)

Which organ plays multiple important roles in our bodily functions, including but not limited to boosting metabolic processes, bolstering immune function and detoxifying the blood and body? Your liver, of course! It is one of the most vital organs in the human body, but it is often susceptible to damage, infections and other complications. One such complication is liver calcification. This condition can lead to compromised liver function, which can either have mild or severe symptomatic presentations.

In this article, we shall understand what is liver calcification, what are its various causes, and some of its common symptoms. We shall also be learning about how to diagnose this problem, some liver calcification treatment options, as well as various preventive measures you can take to prevent complications.

What is Liver Calcification?

In simple terms, liver calcification is a liver injury. Scarring shows up on the liver wall and can be caused due to some parasitic infection, inflammation, or lesions. This scarring in turn leads to small stones getting accumulated in the biliary tract of the liver. Over time, these stones become calcified and hard. Because of this deposit, the liver is unable to detoxify the body and complete proper functioning, and the stones also have become too hard to naturally be flushed out.

Now that we understand what is liver calcification, let us understand its causal factors.

Causes of Liver Calcification

As mentioned above, liver calcification can occur due to many factors, which can cause some long-term damage. Some of the most common causes are listed below:

  • Infections:

    Scar tissues formed due to the body recovering from damaging infections like schistosomiasis (parasitic origins) or tuberculosis (bacterial origins) can accumulate calcium and lead to calcification of the liver.
  • Metabolic Disorders:

    Conditions like hemochromatosis (iron overload) and Wilson’s disease (copper overload) cause the body to store too much iron or copper. This excess mineral buildup can present in the liver as well, and over time, some of these minerals can harden into calcium deposits.
  • Biliary Tract Diseases:

    Issues in the bile flow, caused due to bile duct stones or primary bile cholangitis, can have a damaging effect on the bile duct and the surrounding liver tissues as well. This damage sometimes triggers scar tissue formation, which can calcify over time.
  • Vascular Disorders:

    Budd-Chiari syndrome (blocked hepatic veins) blocks blood flow to the liver which may lead to liver damage and scarring, which in turn may lead to calcification.

Now that we have understood the causes, let us note down some common symptoms of calcification of the liver so that we can be vigilant and detect it before it may get too severe.

Liver Calcification Symptoms

In the initial stages, the patient may not even notice any obvious symptoms at all, and hence this condition often gets misdiagnosed. Some common severe symptoms of liver calcification are listed below. If you notice or undergo any of these symptoms, consult a doctor immediately.

  • Right Flank Pain:

    Pain in the right flank, especially during vigorous exercise, is very common for patients who are suffering from severe calcification of the liver. This pain is caused by the large calcified nodules pressing down painfully on the nerves and tissue in the liver.
  • Jaundice, accompanied by yellow eye mucosa:

    If your liver is not functioning properly, your skin, urine, and eye mucus will turn into a deep yellow, indicating jaundice and improper liver function or liver failure or cirrhosis.
  • Digestive Disorders:

    The calcified nodules can often lead to obstruction of the bile duct, which can cause digestive problems.
  • Fever, Chills or Convulsions:

    Such intense symptoms only manifest when the liver damage due to calcification is very severe, at which point, immediate treatment is necessary.

Now that we have understood some of the most severe liver calcification symptoms, let us understand how these symptoms are diagnosed through proper testing and medical enquiry.

Diagnosing Calcification of the Liver

There are several methods employed in diagnosing liver calcification, some of which are listed below. If you suspect you may have this condition, then getting the proper battery of tests done is essential to rule out any further complications or underlying issues.

  1. Imaging Tests

    • Ultrasound: Sound waves are used to create an image of your organs like your liver. It is a great initial testing tool as it picks up any large calcified nodules, and it is a painless and non-invasive procedure. One drawback of an ultrasound is that it may miss very tiny calcifications in the scan.
    • CT Scan: This scan is based on X-ray technology and can take detailed pictures of your organs, and hence, help reveal any smaller calcifications ahead of time.
  2. Blood Tests:

    There is no direct way to diagnose liver calcification through a blood test, but doctors use blood tests as a way to test for underlying causes of liver problems to confirm their diagnosis. Blood tests can be used to check for markers for diseases like hemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease, or abnormal liver enzymes. These markers can often indicate a further issue with the liver like calcification or cirrhosis.

  3. Biopsy

    In rare cases, if other tests may not have been as effective, but symptoms persist, doctors may need to biopsy a small tissue sample from your liver for closer observation under a microscope. This procedure is minimally invasive and is often done with a thin needle.

When facing persistent symptoms, getting the right battery of tests is essential to identify any underlying issue in time and to get an effective diagnosis. But managing the various test results and documents can often be very overwhelming and you may lose track of important medical documents and records. To work smarter, you should download a PHR app to keep track of all your scans, reports, test results, and medical symptoms.

Health-e is the best PHR app in the Indian market right now, as not only does it give you access to all your past and present medical records anytime and anywhere, but it is functioning under the government of India’s Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, and can even be easily be linked to your Aadhar card! Imagine all your medical test results, doctor’s appointment records, immunization records, medical history and more, all in one smart cloud-based app, giving you ease of use and convenience, all at the click of a button!

Liver Calcification Treatment

Now that we have understood how calcification in the liver is diagnosed, let us look at some of the various treatment options available. In many cases, liver calcifications are harmless and don’t require any specific treatment, as they can be managed by making changes in lifestyle and eating habits. The stages of disease progression in the liver dictate how the treatment process shall be dealt with. Listed below are the various stages of treatment for liver calcification:

  • Slight Calcifications:

    If the liver is only slightly calcified, it means that the deposits are very small, and they do not pose a health risk or present any obvious symptoms. Your doctor may conduct a liver function test to confirm, and if that is normal, that means that your calcifications are benign and can be managed by changes in your lifestyle, eating habits, and living a healthy lifestyle. There is no need for any drugs, procedures, or medicines for liver calcification in this stage of disease progression.

  • Moderate Calcifications Caused Due to Underlying Issues:

    If the symptoms have started to present, and the calcified nodules are larger and caused due an underlying infection that has started to affect regular liver function, then doctors may start the patient on a course of medication or drugs to treat the underlying condition and to manage the symptoms of the liver calcification.

  • Severe Symptoms Caused Due to Heavy Liver Calcification:

    In rare cases, if calcifications are very large, and have started causing severe problems like extreme pain, jaundice, or blockage of bile ducts, then surgical removal of the calcified liver has to be done to minimise the damage to the rest of the body.

One important consideration to keep in mind is to always consult and discuss with your doctor. Be actively involved in discussing the findings of your various tests, and try to understand the likely causes of the condition and the best course of action they recommend for you. Furthermore, try to focus on maintaining overall liver health, as even if you may not need direct treatment, it is essential to maintain healthy liver function by having a balanced diet, limiting alcohol intake, managing any medical issues to prevent complications down the line, and of course, exercising regularly to keep metabolic functioning in top shape.

Preventive Measures

Now that we have understood the various symptoms, causes, treatment options, and causes of liver calcification, last but not least, let us understand some preventive measures you can incorporate in your lifestyle to prevent such a condition from developing, whether it is mild or severe. As there are no drugs in particular to dissolve liver calcifications, it is essential to follow these measures to boost liver function and prevent complications.

  • Limit foods high in cholesterol to reduce the risk of gallstones being formed or bile pigment deposits.
  • Have a balanced healthy diet with enough lean protein, white meats, vitamins and minerals from fresh vegetables and fruits.
  • Do not overeat or eat at odd times to reduce the strain on the liver.
  • Sleep on time, and for at least 7-8 hours, to give all the organs including the liver to rejuvenate the body and detoxify it. Ideally, the liver and other organs detoxify between 11 pm to 1 am approximately, so you should be well into your REM sleep cycle by then.
  • Do not drink alcohol, or intake other stimulants like tobacco as these substances have toxic contents which weaken the liver over time, making it more prone to infection or inflammations.
  • Engage in regular exercise to keep metabolic function in top shape and increase overall bodily health.
  • Drink lots of water and herb teas with laxative effects to maintain liver function by flushing out toxins and preventing bile duct obstructions due to gallstones or calcifications forming.
  • Get regular deworming done every 6 months to promote digestive health and general well-being.
  • Getting tested regularly every 3-6 months to keep track of any changes in pre-existing calcifications or identify any new development of issues.

Getting tested regularly is one of the most important preventive measures you can practice to monitor the progression of your liver conditions, or, they can even help identify any new complications or underlying problems. Running this battery of tests is essential at periodic intervals for regular monitoring, and rather than mismanaging and misplacing your medical records, scans and test results when visiting your doctor for a follow-up, you can just log all your data into a PHR app like Health-e! This way, not only is all your medical information in one place, but you can seamlessly share it with hospital administrators, and doctors, without worrying about your privacy or cybersecurity. Additionally, you can even use it to get secondary opinions and reminders for your upcoming appointments. You can log in your symptoms, get productive health analysis results, and access all your medical data, at the press of a button!

Liver calcification is a very real and pertinent issue, and if not identified in time, can adversely affect the body’s functioning and overall liver health. Thankfully, it can be identified easily and if caught early, can be effectively managed by changes in lifestyle and food habits. We hope that this article helped educate you about the various aspects of liver calcification, from its definition to its causal factors to the symptoms it causes, and its various diagnosis and treatment solutions.

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Jigar Patel is the Founder of Health-e, a HealthTech app that simplifies health records management along with providing personalized and preventative healthcare solutions. Although he has 20+ years of operations and management experience in the EPC domain, Jigar’s true passion lies in making healthcare simpler, faster and more accessible for doctors and patients alike. He strongly believes that people need to be empowered to participate in their own healthcare and is constantly thinking of ways to build this into his app. He loves to keep things simple be it in life, product design, his work or the content he develops. Being married for 10 years and having 2 kids have taught him that perspective matters, so you can always count on him to share new perspectives on various topics.