Start by making an appointment with your family doctor or a general practitioner if you have signs and symptoms that worry you. If your doctor suspects you may have a liver problem, such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, 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, as well as any vitamins or supplements, that you're taking.
- Take any relevant medical records, such as records of any tests you've had that relate to your current condition.
- Take 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 nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, some basic questions to ask include:
- What is causing fat to build up in my liver?
- Is the fat in my liver hurting my health?
- Will my fatty liver disease progress to a more serious form?
- What are my treatment options?
- Will losing weight or changing my diet reduce the amount of fat in my liver?
- What can I do to keep my liver healthy?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- 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?
- What will determine whether I should plan for a follow-up visit?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions 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:
April 10, 2014
- Have you experienced any symptoms, such as yellowing of the eyes or skin, abdominal pain or swelling, or swelling in your legs? What were the results of tests done at that time?
- Do you drink alcohol?
- What medications do you take, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements?
- Have you ever been told that you have hepatitis?
- Do other people in your family have liver disease?
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). American College of Gastroenterology. http://patients.gi.org/topics/fatty-liver-disease-nafld. Accessed Sept. 26, 2013.
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. American Liver Foundation. http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/nafld. Accessed Sept. 26, 2013.
- Feldman M, et al. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 26, 2013.
- Chalasani N, et al. The diagnosis and management of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: Practice guideline by the American Gastroenterological Association, American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and American College of Gastroenterology. Gastroenterology. 2012;142:1592.
- Molloy JW, et al. Association of coffee and caffeine consumption with fatty liver disease, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and degree of hepatic fibrosis. Hepatology. 2012;55:429.
- Golden AK. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 16, 2013.
- Ludwig J, et al. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis: Mayo Clinic experiences with a hitherto unnamed disease. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 1980;55:434
- Venkatesh SK, et al. Magnetic resonance elastography of liver: Technique, analysis and clinical applications. Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging. 2013;37:544.
- ACIP Adult Immunization Work Group. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended immunization schedule for adults aged 19 years and older — United States, 2013. MMWR. 2013;62:13. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/su6201a3.htm?s_cid=su6201a3_w. Accessed Oct. 11, 2013.