Start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. If your doctor thinks you have a liver problem, such as alcoholic hepatitis, you'll likely be referred to a digestive disease specialist (gastroenterologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. Ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes. Let your doctor know how much alcohol you regularly consume. It's a good idea to track your alcohol consumption for a few days by writing it down, because people tend to underestimate the amount they've consumed.
- Make a list of all medications, as well as any vitamins or supplements, that you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along to help you remember everything that was said.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Questions to ask your doctor
For alcoholic hepatitis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- Are there any other possible causes for my symptoms?
- What kinds of tests do I need? How should I prepare for them?
- Is my condition temporary or chronic?
- What treatments are available? Which one do you recommend?
- Are there any alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- What resources are available to help me stop drinking? Which ones will my insurance pay for?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any dietary restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover it?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask questions anytime you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Be ready to answer questions that your doctor is likely to ask:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- How often do you drink alcohol, and how many drinks do you usually consume?
- Have you ever had hepatitis or yellowing of the skin before?
- Do you use any other recreational drugs?
- Are your family members or friends concerned about your drinking?
- Do you get angry or anxious when the subject of your drinking is discussed?
- Do you feel guilty about drinking?
- Do you drink in the morning — do you need an eye-opener?
What you can do in the meantime
Stop drinking alcohol if you think it may be causing your health problems. If you believe you're dependent on alcohol, your doctor can recommend treatment options. However, if you need help to stop drinking while you're waiting to see your doctor, Alcoholics Anonymous or counseling may be helpful.
Nov. 03, 2012
- Alcohol-induced liver disease. American Liver Foundation. http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/alcohol/. Accessed Sept. 25, 2012.
- AskMayoExpert. Alcoholic liver disease. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2012.
- Goldman L, et al. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/191371208-2/0/1492/0.html#. Accessed Sept. 25, 2012.
- Choi G, et al. Alcoholic hepatitis: A clinician's guide. Clinical Liver Disease. 2012;16:371.
- Singal AK, et al. Alcoholic hepatitis: Prognostic models and treatment. Gastroenterology Clinics of North America. 2011;40:611.
- O'Shea RS, et al. Alcoholic liver disease. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2010;105:14.
- Cirrhosis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/cirrhosis/index.htm. Accessed Sept. 26, 2012.
- Singal AK, et al. Outcomes after liver transplantation for alcoholic hepatitis are similar to alcoholic cirrhosis: Exploratory analysis from the UNOS database. Hepatology. 2012;55:1398.
- Milk thistle. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Sept. 27, 2012.
- SAMe. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Sept. 27, 2012.
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