gastrointestinal conditions

Liver Disease

Your liver is an important organ that helps your body digest food, process toxins, metabolize drugs and manufacture proteins that help your blood clot. With these and even more functions, your liver is vital to your health.

Causes of Liver Disease

Liver disease can be rooted in a number of causes.

Infections of the liver can come from parasites or viruses. The most common infections come from Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viruses. Viruses can spread through close contact with infection individuals, through contaminated water or food, and via sexual contact or blood.

Because your liver processes the drugs and toxins your body encounters, these substances can also damage the liver directly. Industrial chemicals, environmental toxins, recreational drugs and alcohol can cause liver disease.

Even chemicals intended to be beneficial—such as certain over-the-counter and prescription medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements—can damage your liver. It's important to let your doctor know about anything you're taking.

Your lifestyle choices can also affect your liver, especially over time. Being obese and drinking heavily are associated with fatty liver and scarring of the liver, called cirrhosis.

Many of these conditions can put you at risk of liver cancer, which is cancer that actually starts in the liver. More commonly, cancer found in the liver actually spreads, or metastasizes, from cancer that starts somewhere else, like the breast, colon or lungs.


Liver disease can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Itchy skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pale or bloody stools
  • Swelling in your legs, ankles and feet
  • Jaundice, or the yellowing of your skin and/or eyes


In addition to review your health history and performing an exam, our doctors have several tools to help diagnose if you have liver disease. These tools include:

  • Liver function panel, which is a blood test that shows how well your live is performing;
  • CT X-rays, ultrasound and other imaging procedures;
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

The liver is important and complex, so the diseases that affect it and their treatments are varied. Your Adventist Health gastroenterologist has the knowledge and experience to identify if you have liver disease and guide your treatment of any issues you find.