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Man talking with his physician about liver health

Liver care

Liver disease refers to any condition that affects the liver's structure or function, resulting in abnormalities or damage to this vital organ. It can stem from various causes, including infections, genetics, excessive alcohol consumption, immune system abnormalities, or exposure to certain toxins.

You should come to see a Dignity Health provider for liver care if you experience any of the following:

  • Persistent symptoms: If you notice persistent symptoms like jaundice, abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, or changes in urine or stool color.

  • Alcohol or substance abuse: If you consume excessive alcohol or have a history of substance abuse, regular check-ups are advisable to monitor liver health.

  • Family history: If liver disease runs in your family, regular screenings and consultations with a health care professional are recommended.

  • Medication side effects: If you're taking medications known to affect the liver, it's crucial to monitor liver function regularly.

  • Existing health conditions: If you have conditions such as diabetes, obesity, or viral hepatitis, which can impact liver health, regular monitoring is essential.

Early detection and management of liver issues are critical for better outcomes, so seeking medical advice promptly when symptoms arise or risk factors are present is advisable.

Find a liver care provider today.

With locations across California, Dignity Health Medical Group is just right around the corner. Schedule an appointment today with a liver care provider.

Symptoms of liver diseases

  • Jaundice: Yellowing of the skin and eyes.

  • Fatigue: Feeling tired or weak even after rest.

  • Abdominal pain and swelling: Pain or swelling in the abdomen, often on the right side where the liver is located.

  • Loss of appetite: A reduced desire to eat or feeling full quickly.

  • Nausea and vomiting: Feeling queasy or throwing up.

  • Dark urine: Urine appears darker than usual.

  • Pale stool: Stool that is lighter in color than usual.

  • Itchy skin: Skin may itch intensely.

  • Easy bruising: Bruises appear easily and take longer to heal.

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, consult with a Dignity Health liver care provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Common liver conditions

Hepatitis: symptoms and treatment options

Hepatitis refers to liver inflammation, typically caused by viral infections, although it can also result from alcohol abuse, medications, toxins, or autoimmune diseases. There are several types of viral hepatitis, including Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E, each caused by different viruses.

Symptoms of hepatitis can include:

  • Fatigue: Feeling extremely tired or weak.

  • Jaundice: Yellowing of the skin and eyes.

  • Abdominal pain: Discomfort or pain in the abdomen.

  • Nausea and vomiting: Feeling queasy or throwing up.

  • Loss of appetite: Reduced desire to eat.

  • Dark urine: Urine appears darker than usual.

  • Joint pain: Pain or stiffness in joints.

Treatment options for hepatitis depend on the type and severity of the infection:

  • Hepatitis A: Often resolves on its own with rest and adequate hydration. Vaccination is available for prevention.

  • Hepatitis B: Treatment may involve antiviral medications to control the virus and prevent liver damage. Vaccination is also available.

  • Hepatitis C: Antiviral medications are used to treat chronic Hepatitis C infections. Recent advancements in medications have significantly improved cure rates.

  • Hepatitis D and E: Treatment primarily focuses on managing symptoms as there are no specific antiviral medications for these types.

  • General measures: Rest, maintaining adequate nutrition, avoiding alcohol, and following prescribed medications are crucial for recovery.

For chronic cases or complications, such as liver cirrhosis or liver failure, additional interventions like liver transplants might be considered. It's important to consult a Dignity Health hepatologist for proper diagnosis and guidance on the most appropriate treatment plan. Vaccination for Hepatitis A and B is recommended for prevention, especially in high-risk populations.

What are the causes of fatty liver?

  • Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD):

    • Excessive alcohol consumption: The primary cause of AFLD is chronic and excessive alcohol consumption. When the liver processes alcohol, it can lead to the accumulation of fat in liver cells. The more alcohol consumed and the longer the duration of consumption, the greater the risk of developing alcoholic fatty liver disease.

  • Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD):

    • Obesity: Obesity is a significant risk factor for NAFLD. Excess body weight, especially abdominal obesity, increases the likelihood of fat accumulation in the liver.

    • Insulin resistance: Insulin resistance, often associated with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity, can contribute to the development of NAFLD. When the body becomes resistant to insulin, the liver may produce more fat.

    • High blood sugar: Elevated blood sugar levels, as seen in uncontrolled diabetes, can lead to an increased risk of NAFLD.

    • High blood lipids: Elevated levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood can be associated with the development of fatty liver.

    • Rapid weight loss: Sudden and significant weight loss, often seen in crash diets or bariatric surgery, can trigger the release of stored fat into the liver, leading to fatty liver.

    • Medications: Some medications, such as corticosteroids, tamoxifen, and certain antiretroviral drugs, can contribute to the development of NAFLD.

    • Other factors: Other factors like rapid weight loss, malnutrition, viral hepatitis, and certain genetic disorders can also play a role in the development of fatty liver.

Treating fatty liver

  • Lifestyle modifications:

    • Dietary changes: Adopt a balanced, healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Limit the consumption of saturated fats, sugars, and processed foods. Reduce calorie intake to achieve and maintain a healthy weight if overweight or obese.

    • Weight management: If overweight or obese, losing weight gradually can significantly improve fatty liver. Aim for a gradual weight loss of about 1 to 2 pounds per week through a combination of diet and exercise.

    • Regular exercise: Engage in regular physical activity, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling, for at least 150 minutes per week. Exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity and reduces fat in the liver.

  • Alcohol moderation: For those with AFLD, the most critical step is to reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption completely. Seek support from health care professionals or support groups if needed.

  • Medications: In some cases, health care providers may prescribe medications to manage specific aspects of fatty liver disease, such as controlling blood sugar levels in individuals with NAFLD who have diabetes.

  • Monitoring and follow-up: Regular medical check-ups and monitoring of liver function are essential. Your health care provider will assess your progress and make recommendations based on your specific situation.

  • Treatment of underlying conditions: If you have underlying medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, managing these conditions effectively is crucial for improving fatty liver.

  • Avoiding certain medications and toxins: It's important to avoid medications and toxins that can harm the liver further. Your health care provider can advise you on this.

  • Liver transplant (in severe cases): In extremely rare and severe cases where liver damage has progressed to cirrhosis and other treatments have failed, a liver transplant may be considered as a last resort.

Liver cancer locations in California

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With clinics throughout California, a Dignity Health Medical Group liver care physician is nearby and ready to assist you with your wellness journey.