Many people in today’s society have liver disease. The most common form of liver disease in America is called fatty liver, and it affects about one third of adults. Risk factors for fatty liver include overweight, hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Most people with fatty liver are diagnosed with an imaging test, like an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI. Sometimes fatty liver causes blood tests called liver enzymes to go up. However, many patients with major liver injury from fatty liver have normal liver enzymes. The primary treatments for fatty liver involve weight loss and exercise.
Another common form of liver disease is Hepatitis C. This is a liver infection with a virus that people contract primarily via iv drug use. People that had a blood transfusion before 1992 are also at high risk for hepatitis C. It has been estimated that between 3-4 million Americans currently have Hep C. Thankfully, there is currently excellent treatment for this condition that leads to clinical cure in over 98% of the cases. These hep C meds are pills that patients take usually for just 8-12 weeks and rarely have any significant side effects.
The last common cause of chronic liver disease in America results from excess alcohol intake. Alcohol is a liver toxin that in some people does very little to harm the liver, but in others causes severe liver damage. In general, the more and the longer people drink, the higher the risk for alcoholic liver disease. Research has made it clear that women metabolize alcohol less efficiently and need less overall alcohol intake to chronically injure their livers. It appears that, on-average, those consuming 2-3 drinks per day have significant risk for chronic liver disease.
There are a variety of other chronic liver diseases that we diagnose and treat at SWGI, including Hepatitis B, autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cholangitis, hereditary hemochromatosis, alpha one antitrypsin deficiency, Wilson’s disease, drug induced liver disease (DILI), and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC).