If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, start by making an appointment with your primary care doctor. If your doctor suspects you may have a liver problem, such as autoimmune hepatitis, you may be referred to a specialist in liver diseases (hepatologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to 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.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along to help you remember everything that was discussed.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your appointment. For autoimmune hepatitis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- Are there any other possible causes?
- What tests do I need to confirm that I have autoimmune hepatitis?
- How severe is the damage to my liver?
- Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
- What are my treatment options?
- Can treatment cure my autoimmune hepatitis?
- What are the potential side effects of each treatment option?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
- Could any of my medications or habits cause my liver problems or make my liver problems worse?
- Are there any dietary restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
- Will I need follow-up visits? If so, when?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
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- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous, or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Does anything seem to improve or worsen your symptoms?
- Are you taking any medicines or treatments for your symptoms?
- Do you have a family history of liver disease?
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- Autoimmune hepatitis. National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/autoimmunehep/. Accessed Feb. 9, 2012.
- McPhee SJ, et al. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2012. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=1. Accessed Feb. 16, 2012.
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- Greenberger NJ, et al, eds. Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Gastroenterology, Hepatology, & Endoscopy. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=6204532. Accessed Feb. 16, 2012.
- Teufel A, et al. Concurrent autoimmune diseases in patients with autoimmune hepatitis. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 2010;44:208.