When to seek medical care for liver disease?
Usually, the onset of any liver disease is slow and asymptomatic. However, any unexplained symptoms such as extreme fatigue, weakness, yellowing of skin or eyes, persistent fever, sudden weight loss and abdominal pain should not be overlooked and you must visit an expert Gastroenterologist for medical evaluation.
Besides, overdose of Acetaminophen or Tylenol can also cause acute liver failure and hence, requires urgent diagnosis and treatment.
How is liver disease diagnosed?
The diagnosis of liver disease requires a history of the patient together with physical examination. Other diagnostic tests may be advised depending on the symptoms and the risk factors for liver disease. Those with a history of alcohol abuse are advised to minimize alcohol consumption and are recommended various tests for detecting alcoholic cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma. Some blood tests helpful for assessing liver inflammation and function include:
- Test for AST and ALT (transaminase chemicals released with liver cell inflammation);
- Test for GGT and alkaline phosphatase (chemicals released by cells lining the bile ducts)
- Test to check the levels of protein and albumin
- Complete blood count (CBC): Low RBC, WBC & platelets count in patients with end stage liver disease. As a result of cirrhosis, patients may experience bleeding
- Tests to monitor INR blood clotting as it may be impaired due to poor protein production
- lipase to check for pancreas inflammation
- Tests to check Ammonia blood level in patients with mental confusion. It is helpful in determining whether or not liver failure is a potential cause.
- Other imaging tests such as CT scan, MRI and ultrasound
- Liver biopsy ( to confirm a specific diagnosis of liver disease)
What is the treatment for liver disease?
Every liver disease has its own specific treatment regimen. For instance:
- In case of hepatitis A, patient requires extensive care to maintain hydration while the immune system fights and kill the infection.
- In cases of cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease, medications may be required to control the intake of protein through low sodium diet and diuretics.
- Those with large amounts of fluid accumulated in abdomen, it is necessary to remove excess fluid through paracentesis.
- Operations may be required to treat portal hypertension and minimize the risk of bleeding.
For severe cases of liver damage, Liver transplantation is the final option. Book your appointment with one of the best liver surgeons in India, Dr. Vivek Vij.