GI Health | Liver Disease
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Symptoms and Treatment

Diseases of the Liver and Gallbladder

The liver is essential to the digestive system, performing a variety of functions in the body. When the liver becomes diseased, it can cause a variety of different symptoms. Liver disease occurs when the functions of the liver have been compromised in some way. Some common liver diseases are:

  • Liver lesions / cancers
  • Cirrhosis
  • Hepatitis A – viral infection spread through fecal matter
  • Hepatitis B – viral infection spread through exposure to bodily fluids, including intravenous drug use, sexual contact and contaminated blood.
  • Hepatitis C – a chronic viral infection spread through exposure to bodily fluids, including intravenous drug use, sexual contact and contaminated blood.
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Fatty liver

Symptoms of Liver Disease

Common symptoms of liver disease are nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain in the upper right side, ascites (accumulation of fluid in the abdomen causing distension), fatigue, jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes), weakness, weight loss and fever.

Additional Liver Conditions

Fatty Liver

Fatty liver is often associated with moderate to excessive alcohol consumption. There are two types, alcoholic fatty liver and non-alcoholic fatty liver. A liver is expected to have some fat, but when the liver’s weight is 5%-10% higher than normal, it is when it is considered a fatty liver. If you don’t drink alcohol often, yet have a fatty liver, it is either nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common liver disease in the United States, and is typically not dangerous. But nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), fatty liver that leads to elevations of the liver enzymes, and can lead to liver cirrhosis and can be dangerous. The causes of a non-alcoholic fatty liver include diabetes, elevated cholesterol levels, obesity and a poor diet.

Symptoms of fatty liver include fatigue, pain in the upper right side of abdomen, weight loss, loss of appetite, the most common finding is elevation of the liver enzymes (AST and ALT) which indicate liver inflammation.

Gallstones

Gallstones are saturations of cholesterol or bile pigment that form in the bile duct or the gallbladder. In the United States, the most common type of gallstone is cholesterol-based. Symptoms of gallstones include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, elevations of liver enzymes and pancreatitis.

Risk factors for Gallstones include: Female gender, older age, obesity, high cholesterol levels, medications containing estrogen, rapid weight loss, diabetes and pregnancy. The occurrence of gallstones varies widely among different ethnic groups. You do not have to be concerned about gallstones if you are not experiencing any symptoms. If you do experience symptoms, you should see a GI doctor immediately.

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