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Hepatitis and Other Liver Disease including Fatty Liver Disease

Hepatitis is inflammation of the Liver due to infection e.g. viruses, auto immune, toxins and drugs, inherited and other conditions.  The liver is a critical organ required for processing various toxins, drugs, digestion and glucose metabolism, protein production and many other functions.

Symptoms include right upper abdominal pain, jaundice and other features of liver dysfunction including bleeding and clotting disorders, oedema and ascites (swelling of the limbs or abdomen).  Depending on the cause hepatitis can be self-limiting or a chronic relapsing condition or progressive to cirrhosis (increased fibrosis of the liver).  Occasionally patients can progress to fulminant liver failure which is at the extreme end of the disease process and requires a liver transplant.

Hepatitis is diagnosed by blood testing and ultrasound or CT scans of the liver to exclude other causes of disease.  Sometimes a liver biopsy, where a specimen of liver is taken, is required to establish a histological diagnosis of inflammation and to find the possible cause.

Treatment depends on the cause, for example viral hepatitis may require antiviral therapies whilst autoimmune disease would require steroid therapy etc.

A gastroenterologist also acquires additional training in the field of hepatology enabling him to deal with disorders like these involving the liver.

Fatty Liver Disease

This is primarily due to excessive alcohol consumption or in non alcoholic fatty liver diseases is due to other causes like obesity and fatty diets, diabetes, cholesterol and the metabolic syndrome which are often prevalent in western societies

 It is a disease where fatty tissue infiltrates the liver tissue and can progress to inflammation (hepatitis) and even cirrhosis (increased fibrosis of the liver).

Symptoms depend on the stage of the disease but can vary from simple fatigue to hepatitis and liver failure.

Diagnosis is made via ultrasound and possibly liver biopsy in difficult cases.  Treatment is via medication and lifestyle adjustment and exercise under the guidance and supervision of a gastroenterologist.