We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is an Amebic Liver Abscess?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

An amebic liver abscess is a pus-filled cyst that develops inside the liver following a severe parasitic infection. Abscesses develop when Entamoeba histolytica (E. histolytica), the parasite that causes dysentery, penetrates the walls of the digestive tract and migrates to the liver from the bloodstream. Infection can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including high fever, chills, fatigue, and upper abdominal pain. Treatment is usually targeted at killing parasites with medications instead of repairing or removing the actual abscess, though surgical drainage of the cyst may be necessary if severe liver inflammation occurs.

E. histolytica is found worldwide and is transmitted from host to host through contact with infected feces. In most cases, infection is due to ingesting contaminated food or water. A person of any age can develop an amebic liver abscess, though middle-aged adults who live in or travel to poor, crowded regions are at the highest risk of infection. Males tend to experience liver complications more often than women, though doctors are unsure why.

Once E. histolytica parasites are ingested, they pass through the stomach and attach to the walls of the small intestine. Parasites gradually break down the walls and escape into the bloodstream. As blood naturally passes through the liver, the parasites cling to the lining of the liver and take advantage of available proteins to mature, reproduce, and colonize. An amebic liver abscess can develop in as little as one week after the initial infection.

Worsening abdominal pain and fever are the most common symptoms of an amebic liver abscess. Many patients experience gastrointestinal problems as well, such as diarrhea, vomiting, joint pain, and fatigue. An untreated infection may spread from the liver to other vital organs, especially the lungs and heart. If infection becomes widespread, breathing difficulties, vision changes, elevated heart rate, and mental confusion can become debilitating.

A doctor can usually diagnose an amebic liver abscess by analyzing blood samples and taking imaging scans of the abdomen. Blood cultures that return positive for E. histolytica are clear signs that infection is present. Ultrasounds and computerized tomography scans can reveal round, well-defined lesions on or near the surface of the liver. After confirming a diagnosis and gauging the size of the abscess, specialists can determine the best course of treatment.

Most cases of E. histolytica infection in either the digestive tract or the liver can be cured with a ten-day course of medications called amebicides. Metronidazole is the most commonly prescribed amebicide for amebic liver abscesses. Patients usually see improvements in symptoms within a few days and fully recover in less than one month. Occasionally, a doctor will decide to drain fluid from an abscess manually with a needle to provide more immediate symptom relief. Follow-up visits are important to ensure infection does not return.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.