What is Liver Disease?
The term “liver disease” is broad in that it entails a variety of potential problems that could ultimately lead to liver failure. Cirrhosis is the term used to describe the occurrence of scarring in the liver. As the liver is damaged, scar tissue replaces liver cells, causing cirrhosis. Liver function typically begins to decrease when more than 75% of its tissue is affected. A number of conditions can contribute to the occurrence of cirrhosis and the deterioration of the liver. Some of these include alcoholism, obesity, poor nutrition, Hepatitis (A, B, and C), and an overload of iron. Symptoms of liver disease may include:
Right upper quadrant abdominal pain
& yellow discoloration of the skin (jaundice)
Early detection is critical when it comes to potential liver disease. Attending regular check-ups with your general practitioner is key, however, any suspicion of liver disease should be tended to by a specialist in the field. This is because the liver plays a major role in maintaining standard bodily functions. It contributes to the production of protein and blood clotting as well as the metabolism of glucose, iron, and cholesterol. Any disturbance in its ability to perform at its best could begin to affect other important bodily functions, making proper diagnosis critical.
Understanding when and how to get tested for liver disease can be tricky. This is because the onset of this condition is gradual and cannot typically be indicated by any one symptom. The unexplained occurrence of unusual fatigue, weakness, and rapid weight loss serve as the first signs you should see a doctor. Signs of jaundice are never normal and should always be followed with a medical evaluation, as well as persisting fever, vomiting, and abdominal pain. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s time to see your doctor for proper evaluation.
Testing for liver disease will involve examinations of your current physical condition, personal health history, and family health history. This will help your medical provider better understand your risk for liver disease as well as the symptoms you’re currently experiencing. Gathering an accurate history is often difficult, especially when a patient abuses alcohol, as many tend to minimize their poor nutritional habits and alcohol consumption. While physical findings can be found all throughout the body, it is still very important that you provide your doctor with the full, honest information they need to make a proper diagnosis.
Your physical examination will require analysis of the entire body to identify potential signs of liver disease in your heart, lungs, abdomen, skin, and brain. Blood tests are helpful in assessing liver inflammation and function and determining the current state of liver health as well. A liver biopsy (tissue analysis) will also be necessary to determine liver health. Image tests will also be distributed during the testing process.
Treatment and Diagnosis
Diagnosis of liver disease is made after results from testing have come back indicating abnormalities. Some tests used for diagnosis include:
AST and ALT
Complete Blood Count
Electrolytes and Creatinine
Once diagnosed, the medical care provider should begin treatment immediately. Each case will require its own method of treatment that will be unique to the patient’s current condition. This will depend on the severity of the patient’s condition and the length of time that it has been present. Some cases of liver disease can be treated with medications and lifestyle changes. Some lifestyle changes include eliminating alcohol consumption, starting an exercise routine, and modifying nutritional habits. Other, more severe cases can require a combination of medication and surgery. Liver health will be continuously monitored during and following a treatment course to track progress and detect any persisting abnormalities.
If you are currently experiencing symptoms of liver disease or have a strong family history that is causing you concern, it’s imperative that you see a medical professional for evaluation as soon as possible. We have offices in Salt Lake and Utah Counties to conveniently serve you.