What Causes Liver Cysts?

Women Holding Liver

Liver cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can develop within the liver. These cysts can have various causes, and they are generally categorized into two types: simple liver cysts and complex liver cysts.

  • Simple Liver Cysts: These are typically noncancerous and do not cause symptoms in most cases. The exact cause of simple liver cysts is often unknown, but several factors may contribute to their development:
    • Congenital Factors: Some simple liver cysts may be present from birth and are believed to develop from malformations or abnormal development of bile ducts.
    • Epidemiological Factors: The risk of simple liver cysts appears to increase with age, and they are more common in individuals over 40.
  • Complex Liver Cysts: These cysts have thicker walls and may contain solid components or debris. They can be more concerning than simple cysts and are sometimes associated with underlying liver conditions or diseases, such as:
    • Polycystic Liver Disease (PLD): PLD is a genetic condition in which numerous cysts develop within the liver. It is often associated with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), and it can lead to hepatomegaly (enlarged liver) and various complications.
    • Hepatic Cysts Associated with Liver Diseases: Certain liver diseases, such as Caroli disease or congenital hepatic fibrosis, can be associated with the development of liver cysts.
    • Hydatid Cysts: These cysts are caused by a parasitic infection called Echinococcus. They can infect the liver (and other organs) and cause cysts to form. Hydatid cysts are not common in most parts of the world but can occur in areas where the parasite is prevalent.

The majority of liver cysts, especially simple cysts, do not require treatment unless they cause symptoms or complications. Symptoms may include pain in the upper right abdomen, fullness or bloating, or discomfort. If treatment is necessary, it may involve draining the cyst (cyst aspiration) or surgically removing the cyst. Complex liver cysts may require more extensive evaluation and treatment due to their association with underlying liver conditions.

If you suspect you have liver cysts or are experiencing symptoms related to your liver, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider. They can perform a physical examination, order imaging tests (such as ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI), and provide a proper diagnosis and treatment plan as needed.