If you suspect you have a liver problem, start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. If it's determined that you may have liver problems, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in the liver (hepatologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. 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.
- Consider taking a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to absorb all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- 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 time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For liver problems, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my liver problems?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- Are my liver problems temporary or chronic?
- Can my liver problems be treated?
- Are there treatments to relieve my signs and symptoms?
- Should I stop taking certain medications or supplements?
- Should I avoid alcohol?
- 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?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions at any time during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow more time later to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:
Apr. 16, 2011
- 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?
- Your liver. Your life. What everybody needs to know about liver wellness. American Liver Foundation. http://www.yourliver.org/Liver-Wellness-Presentation.pdf. Accessed Feb. 24, 2011.
- Viral hepatitis: A through E and beyond. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/viralhepatitis/index.htm. Accessed Feb. 24, 2011.
- Cirrhosis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/cirrhosis/index.htm. Accessed Feb. 24, 2011.
- It's dangerous to ignore your liver. American Liver Foundation. http://www.yourliver.org/risk.html. Accessed Feb. 24, 2011.
- Liver biopsy. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/liverbiopsy/index.htm. Accessed Feb. 24, 2011.
- Know your ALT. American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. http://www.aasld.org/patients/Pages/KnowYourALT.aspx. Accessed Feb. 24, 2011.
- Pratt DS. Liver chemistry and function tests. In: Feldman M, et al. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-6189-2..X0001-7--TOP&isbn=978-1-4160-6189-2&about=true&uniqId=229935664-2192. Accessed Feb. 24, 2011.
- Seeff LB. Herbal hepatotoxicity. Clinics in Liver Disease. 2007;11:577.