Liver Disease at AGMG
Learn about Liver Disease treatment from the doctors of Associated Gastroenterology
The liver is the heaviest organ of the abdominal cavity. It is responsible for a over 500 unique functions essential to health such as metabolism, storage, hormone production and excretion of waste products. There are a number of disease including infections, toxins, genetic and autoimmune that can cause damage to the liver. The doctors at AGMG are highly skilled in diagnosing and treating all varieties of liver diseases.
What are different diseases of the liver?
- Infections such as hepatitis A, B, C, D and E
- Autoimmune hepatitis
- Toxins such as alcohol, drugs (acetaminophen/Tylenol), mushrooms, supplements
- Genetic disorders such as Wilson’s disease, hemochromatosis and alpha-1 antitrypsin
- Blood flow disorders
- Fatty liver disease
What is cirrhosis?
Cirrhosis is a chronic disease that is a result of chronic inflammation of the liver. Over time, the inflammation causes scar tissue (fibrosis) to form. When that scarring interferes with the function of the liver that is called cirrhosis. Symptoms of cirrhosis include easy bleeding, yellowing of the eyes and skin, fluid buildup in the legs and abdomen, confusion and an increased risk of liver cancer. The three most common causes of cirrhosis in the US are hepatitis C, alcohol and fatty liver disease.
What are symptoms of liver diseases?
- Abdominal Pain
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin
- Fluid in the legs and abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Breast development in men
Who should be screened for Hepatitis C?
It is recommended that all persons born between 1945 and 1965 should be screened for hepatitis c infection. It is estimated that 2.6% of this patient group will have chronic hepatitis c with most patients not aware they are infected.
In addition to the baby boomer generation, screening is recommended for those with a history of illicit injection drug use or intranasal cocaine use, even if only used once, those who received potentially contaminated blood products or tissue, HIV-infected patients, dialysis patients, men who have sex with men, incarcerated individuals and those who have other potential prior exposure to HCV, or who have the potential for transmission
How do you screen for liver disease?
Because of how important the liver is, liver disease can affect all functions of the body. Screening for liver diseases includes a careful history and physical, blood work, imaging of the liver and often an endoscopy to look for dilated blood veins in the esophagus.
How do you treat liver diseases?
The first goal of treating liver diseases is to remove the source of inflammation of the liver. This could include stopping alcohol, weight loss, decreasing the immune response with medication or treating Hepatitis B/C with anti-viral medicines.
If there is cirrhosis, the focus is on managing the complications that can occur. This includes regular screening for liver cancer with blood work and imaging. Patients can develop large blood veins in the esophagus, stomach or rectum that can be treated with medicines or endoscopic procedure. Confusion can occur with cirrhosis that needs to be managed with medications. Fluid can build up in the abdomen (ascites) or legs that often required water pills. Lastly, occasionally patients will need to be evaluated for liver transplant depending on the situation. The doctors at AGMG regularly work with all local transplant centers including Cedars-Sinai, USC, UCLA and UCSD if this is needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious virus that is spread from person to person through food or water. Most cases of hepatitis A are mild and do not require treatment without any long term issues. Rarely, patients can become very sick from hepatitis A and a liver transplant is required. Vaccines are available for people at risk especially if planning on traveling to an area with high rates of hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B is an infection of the blood that can cause inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis B is very common worldwide and can either be passed from mother to child at birth or from person to person via sexual contact, needle sharing or occupational exposure. Hepatitis B can either resolve on its own or can be a chronic infection. Not everyone with hepatitis B needs treatment and it is important to discuss with your doctor if you are concerned. Vaccine are available for people at risk.
Hepatitis C is an infection of the blood that can cause inflammation of the liver. Unlike hepatitis B, hepatitis C is spread via contact with infected blood. Unlike hepatitis B, hepatitis C rarely resolves on its own and treatment is almost always recommended. There is no vaccine available for hepatitis C at this time.
The treatment of hepatitis C used to be long, have major side effects and have low success rates. Now, hepatitis C can be cured with very effective oral medicines taken once a day in as quick as 8 weeks!