Liver Foundation of WA | Polycystic Liver Disease
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Polycystic Liver Disease

Polycystic Liver Disease

Polycystic Liver Disease (PLD) can either be inherited or randomly occur with no genetic link. It is more common in women than in men. The disease results in benign cysts being formed in the liver. The tendency to form multiple cysts is likely present at birth, but cysts usually do not become larger and cause problems until you are an adult.

Polycystic Liver Disease tends to occur in those already suffering from Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), although PLD is less severe and dangerous than PKD.

Cysts in the liver initially may only be the size of a pinhead, yet they can grow to be 10cm in diameter. Similarly your liver may retain its normal size or it can possibly become heavily enlarged. Despite this, your liver should continue to function effectively and the disease is not considered to shorten your life expectancy.

Symptoms of PLD

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating or swelling in the abdomen
  • Feeling full

1/10 people with PLD have problems associated with it. In addition to severe abdominal pain, other complications may include:

  • Bleeding into a cyst
  • Infection of a cyst
  • Bile duct obstruction
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

Diagnosis

If a doctor notices symptoms of PLD or liver dysfunction tests may be undertaken for a full diagnosis such as:

  • A liver function test (LFT): this is a blood test that measures levels of certain enzyme and protein substances in your blood that may alter when liver damage is present.
  • CT or MRI scans: digital imaging that identifies extent and positioning of cysts.

How is PLD Treated?

PLD usually does not require treatment as generally it poses no major risks or damage. If cysts do become problematic there are treatments available such as:

  • Antibiotics for infected cysts
  • Draining for single large cysts
  • Surgery to open up the cyst and remove the fluid
  • Surgery to remove the part of the liver most affected by the cysts
  • And rarely, a liver transplant