When you hear the word gastroenterologists, the first thing that may be comes to mind is a doctor for the digestive system. That is correct, but did you know that gastroenterologists can also address the health of the liver as well as conditions and diseases affecting it? If you a re looking to see a liver doctor in Singapore (https://gastrohealth.com.sg/dr-bhavesh-kishor-doshi/), you can book an appointment with gastroenterologist.
A closer look at your liver’s health
The liver can be found on the right side of the abdomen beneath the rib cage. It takes second place as the largest organ of the body following the skin. The plays an important role in the digestive system. This is why gastroenterologists are knowledgeable and have the skills to manage its condition and provide treatment when needed.
There are three main functions of the liver in the digestive system:
- It filters the blood from the digestive tract
- It detoxifies harmful chemicals
- It metabolizes drugs
- It processes the nutrients from the digestive tract
- It secretes bile to help in fat digestion
Due to its function, the liver can be damaged when exposed to unhealthy factors. This can result to cirrhosis or scarring, a condition that can advance to liver failure. A liver that fails to function properly can be fatal.
Causes of liver disease
These are the common causes of liver disease:
- Abnormality in the immune system (e.g. Autoimmune hepatitis, Primary biliary cholangitis, Primary sclerosing cholangitis)
- Accumulation of fats in the liver
- Cancer (e.g. Bile duct cancer, liver adenoma, liver cancer)
- Certain medications
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Genes (e.g. Alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency, Hemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease)
- Infection (e.g. Hepatitis A, B, and C)
Diseases that affect the liver often do not exhibit any signs or symptoms. When they do, you may notice the following changes in your body:
- Appetite loss
- Bruising easily
- Changes in urine color (usually becomes dark)
- Changes in stool color (usually becomes pale)
- Chronic fatigue
- Itchy skin
- Jaundice (eyes and skin appearing yellow in color)
- Pain and swelling in the abdomen
Presence of any of the symptoms mentioned warrants a consultation with a liver doctor.
Diagnosing liver disease
Apart from a general physical check-up and recording the symptoms that you have been experiencing, your liver doctor will likewise recommend some medical tests to be done to give an accurate diagnosis of the disease affecting your liver. These tests can be:
- Biopsy of the liver
- Blood tests
- Imaging tests
A biopsy test will need a small tissue sample of the liver. This sample is then examined under a microscope to determine any abnormalities present.
Blood tests require an ample amount of blood drawn from you. The blood is examined by measuring the levels of liver enzymes present, which can indicate whether or not your liver functions properly.
Imaging tests, such as CT Scan, MRI, and ultrasound, are done to see if there are any abnormal growths, damages, or scarring in the liver. To further check on the severity of the scars or the deposition of fat affecting the liver, a fibroscan can be performed.
Diseases affecting the liver
According to one study, the top chronic liver disease cases affect approximately 1.5 billion people globally. Topping the list are:
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – this disease occurs when there is excessive build up of fats inside the liver that causes inflammation. This disease can cause liver scarring, which can advance to other liver conditions like cirrhosis.
- Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) – this disease is transmitted from one person to another. It can be passed on through sexual intercourse or by shared use of needles when taking drugs.
- Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) – this disease can infect another person when it gets into the blood. Usually, this disease is gotten from infected needles that accidentally punctures you or needles that are shared while taking drugs.
- Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) – this disease happens when fats pile up inside the liver due to excessive alcohol drinking.
- Others – Alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency, Wilson’s disease, autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cholangitis, primary sclerosing cholangitis
People at risk of developing liver disease
There are various risk factors that can double your chances of getting liver disease, such as:
- Alcohol abuse
- Being exposed to chemicals and toxins that cause liver disease
- Being exposed to infected blood and bodily fluids
- Blood transfusions, especially when done prior to the year 1992
- Family medical history of diseases affecting the liver
- Getting body piercings or tattoos
- Not using protection during sexual intercourse
- Shared use of injections
- Type 2 diabetes
Treatment for liver diseases
There are several ways to manage and treat liver diseases. Your liver doctor will base your treatment plan on the type of disease that you have and how advanced it is. Some treatments that can be done are:
- Changes in lifestyle – Certain liver diseases like fatty liver can be managed by changing your unhealthy ways of living. This include limiting or quitting alcohol consumption, increasing the consumption of foods rich in fiber, such as fruits and vegetables, and putting a limit to eating foods that have high calories and fats.
- Medications – Prescription medicines are usually given to treat liver disease that are inherited like Wilson’s disease or caused by viruses like hepatitis.
- Liver transplant – When the liver cannot function completely due to the advanced state of a disease, your doctor may resort to liver transplant as a final resort to save your life. This major surgical procedure is done by removing your liver and replacing it with a healthy one.
Preventing liver diseases
Liver diseases can be avoided, especially those that are caused by diet and lifestyle factors. You can lower your risk of developing a liver disease by:
- Being mindful of the amount of over-the-counter medications that you are taking that can affect liver function. An example of which is acetaminophen (Tylenol).
- Exercise regularly.
- Managing your consumption of food and drinks that can damage the liver, such as alcohol, red meat, processed foods and beverages high in fructose corn syrup or trans-fat.
- When undergoing procedures that require the use of needles, be proactive in asking for a new sanitized needle before the procedure is done.
- Use protection when having sexual intercourse.
Gastrohealth Clinic – Dr Bhavesh Doshi | Gastroenterologist | Colonoscopy Singapore
6A Napier Rd, #03-370 Gleneagles Hospital Annexe Block, Singapore 258500
+65 6355 5773