Liver Disease (Hepatitis, Fatty Liver)

The liver is a vital organ that helps digest food, store energy and eliminate poisons. Hepatitis and Fatty Liver Disease are two common conditions that can have a critical impact on liver function. NJ gastroenterologists Dr. Howard N. Guss and Dr. Gagan D. Beri are highly specialized in diagnosing liver disease and designing gastroenterological treatment plans that best meet each patient’s individual needs.

Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by a viral infection. While millions of Americans have the disease, most don’t have symptoms and as a result don’t know they are infected. Hepatitis is classified as A, B or C, based on causes and symptoms.

Hepatitis B and C are passed on through contact with the blood and body fluids of an infected individual. This occurs not through casual contact, but rather through sharing razors and drug paraphernalia (needles and syringes) and getting tattoos and piercings with unsanitized equipment. Mothers with the disease can pass it on to their unborn children. Hepatitis B also can be contracted through sexual intercourse; experts remain unsure about this being the case for Hepatitis C.

Both B and C can be acute or chronic. If chronic, hepatitis can lead to permanent liver damage over time, even liver failure that requires a transplant for survival. In most instances, hepatitis B goes away on its own. In contrast most people with hepatitis Cdevelop chronic liver disease. This can lead to liver failure, cancer of the liver, and even death.  . Blood testing and liver biopsy are used for definitive diagnosis, and a preventive vaccine is available for both hepatitis A and B.

Symptoms of Hepatitis B and C:

• Fatigue
• Fever
• Headache
• Loss of appetite
• Stomach pain
• Nausea/vomiting
• Diarrhea or constipation
• Joint and muscle pain
• Itchy skin or rash
• Yellowish eyes and skin (jaundice)
• Dark urine/pale bowel movements

Treatments for Hepatitis B and C:

• Healthy lifestyle
• Regular checkups
• Medications (peginterferon and ribavirin for hepatitis C)
• Liver transplant (in extreme cases)

Fatty Liver Disease (FLD)

FLD develops when fat accumulates in liver cells, in both patients who do not drink alcohol and those with excessive alcohol intake. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is in fact the most common chronic liver disease in the United States. Although its cause is unclear, it tends to be hereditary and also presents in overweight or obese middle-aged individuals. A more serious form of NAFLD is nonalcoholic steatohepatisis (NASH), which can bring about cirrhosis (scarring of liver cells) and lead to liver failure, liver cancer or liver-related death.

NAFLD can be reversed with lifestyle changes. No specific treatments currently exist; therapies are aimed at minimizing risks and relieving symptoms.

Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease:

• Fatigue
• Weakness
• Loss of appetite
• Nausea
• Unexplained weight loss
• Confusion
• Difficulty concentrating
• Pain in the center or upper right part of the abdomen
• Patchy, dark skin discoloration (usually under the arms or on the neck)

With alcoholic fatty liver disease, after heavy drinking:

• Fluid retention
• Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)

Treatments for Fatty Liver Disease:

• Losing weight gradually
• Quitting alcohol
• Avoiding refined, rapidly digested carbs (white bread, white rice, concentrated sugar)
• Exercise
• Liver transplant (when cirrhosis becomes severe)