Lupus Liver: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment


Lupus liver is a common side effect of lupus. While lupus doesn’t usually attack the liver directly, lupus inflammation around the vital organ and blood vessels may impact its functions.

However, with proper diagnosis and treatment, you can experience relief from lupus liver pain and potential adverse side effects.

Learn what lupus liver is and how to treat symptoms to prevent further damage.

What Is Lupus?

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is chronic tissue inflammation throughout your body. If you have lupus, your body’s immune system begins to attack your healthy tissue. The damaged tissue becomes inflamed, causing pain. Inflammation can also impact the function of surrounding tissue and organs, depending on where the lupus attacks.

What Is the Liver’s Function?

The liver is a large organ in the upper right of your abdomen, just below your diaphragm. The liver performs several crucial functions, including:

  • Balancing chemicals in the blood
  • Cleaning the blood
  • Producing bile for breaking down fat
  • Producing blood plasma proteins
  • Converting and storing glucose

If the liver suffers damage, like from lupus, it can’t properly filter the blood and break down fat. This can cause an excess of harmful substances in your bloodstream. This results in deficiencies in the bloodstream, infections, and fluid buildup if left untreated.

Does Lupus Affect the Liver?

Lupus primarily attacks connective tissue. However, your body contains a significant amount of connective tissue, which can impact the function of neighboring organs, including the liver. A study found that 20.7% of patients with lupus also had liver abnormalities.

There are two primary ways that lupus impacts the liver:

  • Hepatitis: Lupus and associated medication can lead to liver inflammation or hepatitis.
  • Hepatic Vasculitis: Lupus that causes blood vessel inflammation can result in blood clots and poor blood flow to the liver, resulting in damage.

Signs and Symptoms of Lupus Liver Damage

When lupus impacts or damages your liver, you may experience common symptoms associated with poor liver function. Some of the most recognizable signs that your liver may need a professional evaluation include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Swelling in the legs from fluid retention
  • Itchy skin
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Pale-colored stool
  • Nausea or vomiting

Treatment for Liver and Lupus Damage

You can prevent and treat lupus liver damage. However, early intervention is vital for successful results. Here are some of the most effective ways to treat and manage lupus and liver damage.

1. Undergo Routine Blood Tests

Because liver damage is common with lupus, doctors often test liver function during your routine checkups. Regular blood tests allow you to adjust any medications and identify areas of concern before they cause irreversible damage.

2. Take Anti-inflammatories and Immunosuppressants

Anti-inflammatories reduce the swelling and inflammation caused by lupus. This can reduce adverse side effects, like liver damage.

Immunosuppressants help severe lupus cases by calming the body’s natural immune response. However, immunosuppressants are most likely to cause liver damage, so consult your doctor and monitor your liver when taking medications.

3. Avoid Harmful Substances

Alcohol, smoking, and taking drugs contribute to liver damage. While healthy livers can manage small amounts of chemicals, if you suffer from liver damage or are at risk, your liver might not be able to process those chemicals, which can contribute to liver damage.

4. Eat Healthy Foods

Eating vegetables improves your overall health and helps your body fight lupus inflammation. Healthy foods are also easier on the liver.

Red, orange, and blue foods fight inflammation, improving your lupus symptoms and decreasing its impact on your liver.

5. Stay Active

Keep moving to reduce inflammation, but always listen to your body and give it rest when it needs it. Staying active also helps the liver function properly by boosting blood flow.

Additionally, a healthy lifestyle helps combat lupus symptoms and side effects.

6. Reduce Stress

Staying calm and relaxing reduces inflammation and boosts your liver function. Taking walks, meditating, listening to music, and reading are all great ways to give your body a necessary break and unwind.

Receive Care for Your Lupus and Liver

Lupus requires a professional diagnosis. If you suspect you have lupus, see your primary care provider immediately. You should also see your primary care provider if you notice any liver damage symptoms to assess whether lupus caused it or if there are other underlying issues to treat.

Southwest Florida Rheumatology can diagnose and treat lupus liver and associated conditions. See us at one of our three Florida locations in Riverview, Sun City, or Wesley Chapel.

Schedule an appointment to find relief from your lupus symptoms today.


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