Liver cysts are surprisingly common – 16-59 million Americans have liver cysts in their lifetime. Most of those individuals won’t experience any meaningful interruptions to their lives. However, liver cysts can cause a variety of painful symptoms that should be treated by medical professionals. We are here to walk you through whether liver cysts can cause acid reflux and other symptoms you should be aware of.

Can liver cysts cause acid reflux? 

In short, yes. Most people are familiar with acid reflux (heartburn) after a particularly spicy or greasy meal, but it is rarely a serious concern. What’s most important about determining when to see a doctor is whether you’re experiencing a combination of symptoms associated with liver cysts. 

What are the symptoms of liver cysts?

Some common symptoms of liver cysts are:

  • Pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen 
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Shoulder pain
  • Lumps felt upon examination
  • Acid reflux

While any one of these symptoms could have multiple potential causes, a combination is a sign that it may be time for you to consult with a healthcare professional. Depending on your symptoms and their severity, your doctor may want to discuss a variety of diagnosis and treatment options.

Are liver cysts common? 

Liver cysts are fairly common, affecting 15-18% of Americans. The National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD) states that this number is “likely an underestimate because many people with the condition do not have symptoms.” Only 10-15% of liver cyst cases cause noticeable symptoms. 

While some liver cysts may become cancerous, most liver cysts are benign. Often, they do not cause any significant symptoms and rarely pose a risk to your health. However, if you are concerned, you can talk to your doctor about checking for potential liver cysts.

What is acid reflux?

The acid in your stomach is extremely powerful. When working properly, gastric acid is a fundamental part of digestion, breaking foods down Gastric acid balances between being strong enough to break down what it needs to while not being so strong that it causes other problems. 

Most of the time, your body does a great job of maintaining this balance. However, acid reflux is an example of when the system breaks down, often due to environmental factors. Luckily, reflux is usually an easily treatable condition by avoiding various triggers. 

What else causes acid reflux?

While liver cysts can cause acid reflux, there are several other potential causes you may want to investigate first. Here are some of the most common causes of acid reflux.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Beyond diet, one of the most common reasons for acid reflux is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). GERD is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a condition in which stomach acid repeatedly flows back up into the tube connecting the mouth and stomach, called the esophagus.” GERD is a chronic form of acid reflux. 

The more episodes of acid reflux you have, the more likely it is that you will develop GERD. Treatments include over-the-counter antacids, Histamine receptor antagonists (H2 blockers), and, less commonly, muscle relaxers like Baclofen.

Hiatal Hernia

Hiatal hernias are a much more common comorbidity of acid reflux. In fact, most heartburn, reflux, and GERD patients have a hiatal hernia. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a hiatal hernia occurs when the top of your stomach pushes up through the hole in your diaphragm where your esophagus passes through.” The chance of a hiatal hernia increases with age. 

Prescription Medications 

Often, commonly prescribed medications list acid reflux as a side effect, while others can make preexisting reflux worse. If you’ve recently taken a course of antibiotics, that may be the reason, rather than liver cysts. Other common medications that can cause or worsen acid reflux are:

  • Antidepressants
  • Progesterone & Oral Contraceptives 
  • Antibiotics

Always talk to your doctor before discontinuing any prescription medication, especially SSRIs and birth control – there may be unforeseen consequences and withdrawal symptoms. 

What can you try before seeing a doctor? 

If you are experiencing acid reflux, it could be caused by a variety of problems. Some common approaches to reduce acid reflux at home include:

  1. Antacids: Over-the-counter medications can help with occasional acid reflux symptoms.
  2. Dietary changes: Removing food and drinks that seem to trigger your acid reflux, such as spicy foods or carbonated beverages, can help reduce the frequency of symptoms.
  3. Sleeping on an incline: This change can help reduce how often stomach acid escapes to the esophagus.
  4. Eating and drinking: A full meal and a glass of water after you take your medications can assist in smooth digestion. 

At-home treatments can relieve symptoms of acid reflux in most circumstances, and the quickest path to relief is usually a multifaceted approach.

How do antacids work?

Antacids work in a few different ways. The National Institute of Health explains that “the antacids act by neutralizing the acid in the stomach and by inhibiting pepsin, which is a proteolytic enzyme.” 

One of the most common ingredients in antacids is chalk (calcium carbonate) and other cationic salts. By binding themselves to the acid compounds, they inhibit peptic activity. 

Aluminum hydroxide is the other active ingredient in widely available antacids. Aluminum hydroxide works by breaking down in the stomach. It then binds to protons which produce salts and water, neutralizing acid and reducing symptoms.

Both methods can be used liberally, five or more times a day depending on the medication, but it is important to note that overusing antacids can have digestive side effects including diarrhea and constipation. While over-the-counter antacids are not a permanent solution, they are a useful tool to minimize discomfort before you can see a doctor. 

Are liver cysts the cause of your acid reflux?

Most likely, liver cysts are not the cause of your acid reflux. However, if you’ve tried everything and your acid reflux won’t go away, and you have some of the other symptoms, it might be time to make an appointment with a specialist to address possible liver cysts. By knowing the additional symptoms of liver cysts, you can pinpoint this problem and get the help you need, whether for acid reflux or liver cysts. Request a consultation here to schedule a time with one of our excellent practitioners.