Some of the most common causes for liver disease worldwide include Hepatitis B and C. Although they both affect the liver, the main different is that they are different viruses that behave differently inside the liver. While hepatitis B is the most common cause of viral liver disease in the world, in the United States, an estimated 3.2 million people have Hepatitis C and most are unaware that they have it. It is now recommended that anyone born between the years of 1945 to 1965 (baby boomers) should be tested for Hepatitis C at least once in his or her lifetime. Since 2015, treatment for Hepatitis C has been revolutionized and there is now a cure. The medications are generally tolerated very well and most complete treatment with just 12 weeks of medication. At Great Lakes Gastroenterology, our center is highly experienced in the treatment of these conditions and can customize a treatment plan that is best for you.
Cirrhosis is a broad term that basically indicates that there is scarring in the liver. There is a wide spectrum of scarring with small amounts indicating mild disease to large amounts of scarring to indicate end stage, or very severe, liver disease. Some of the symptoms of cirrhosis include: the development of swelling in the belly and legs, with occasional build up of fluid in the lungs; developing of varicose veins inside of your body, which can lead to heavy bleeding; difficulty with sleeping and/or excessive daytime sleepiness; yellowing of the skin, which is also known as jaundice; confusion that starts suddenly; or even coma.
There are a number of causes of cirrhosis. Some of the most common include heavy alcohol use, infection with the hepatitis B or C viruses, and build up of excessive fatty tissue within the liver. Several tests can help your doctors determine the cause of cirrhosis including a liver biopsy, blood tests, and imaging tests with ultrasound or MRI. The best test for you will depend on your specific situation and your doctor will help. After being diagnosed with cirrhosis, patients often need to undergo ultrasounds and endoscopic testing on routine intervals to help determine the progression of their disease and potentially prevent complications.
Treatment for cirrhosis is also dependent on the underlying cause. If the disease has progressed to a very severe state, patients are often referred to liver transplant centers to determine if they would be eligible for a liver transplant.
Autoimmune hepatitis is a condition in which the body’s own immune system attacks liver cells leading to inflammation and ultimately scarring and cirrhosis over time. It is not known at this time why autoimmune hepatitis develops, but it is thought that certain infections or medications may trigger the disease in people with an underlying genetic predisposition. Often, patients with autoimmune hepatitis will have no symptoms at all. Commonly, it is diagnosed have having abnormalities found on routine blood work. Treatment is individualized to each patient and is dependent on the severity of illness. Some medications that can be used in the treatment of this disease include prednisone, azathioprine, budesonide, or mycophenolate; however, other medications may be used in your specific case.