What Is Polycystic Liver Disease?

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  • Written By: Cindy Quarters
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2019
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Polycystic liver disease (PLD) causes the growth of a large number of cysts within the tissue of the liver. This inherited condition may only affect the liver, but in some cases those afflicted with PLD may also have cysts that grow in both the liver and the kidneys. PLD does not always affect the function of the liver, but in cases where it does the results can be disastrous.

During the progression os polycystic liver disease, the liver may become filled with many cysts; ultimately, these growths harden the normally soft liver tissue. The liver also enlarges and puts pressure on the other organs that are around it. In some cases, this results in a significant level of pain and liver function may be greatly impaired.

Not all cases of polycystic liver disease result in serious liver problems, but overall liver function is affected in the majority of cases where symptoms develop. If the degree of impairment is significant, surgery may be required to provide relief; this may entail the removal of a large portion of the liver containing the cysts. There is a reasonably good outcome after such an operation, as long as enough liver remains to sustain life.


Many people do not notice symptoms from this condition and do not suffer any major difficulties related to it. They may not even be aware of having polycystic liver disease. If there are symptoms, these may include a very swollen abdomen, nausea, fullness, and fatigue, most of which are typically relieved immediately after cyst removal. For most people afflicted with polycystic liver disease, the prognosis is relatively good.

Some people with polycystic kidney disease may develop liver cysts as well, but this is not the same as polycystic liver disease. For these patients PKD eventually causes the kidneys to fail completely, and the liver cysts can put additional strain on their already stressed bodies. Any problems related to cysts in the liver may impact them but are not typically the cause of their eventual death.

People with polycystic liver disease may also develop kidney cysts, but this scenario is not common. If kidney cysts do begin to grow, they may cause some of the same symptoms as PKD, with similar long-term results. In this case, there may be blood in the urine, abdominal pain, or frequent urination, especially at night.



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