At El Camino Health, our digestive health specialists will take the time to get to know you and understand the challenges you are facing. Our specialists are fellowship trained in digestive disorders, and we have doctors who focus particularly on liver diseases.
The liver is your body’s largest internal organ. It provides many essential functions, including:
- Making bile, a fluid that helps break down fats and gets rid of wastes in the body.
- Changing food into energy.
- Filtering drugs and other poisonous substances out of the blood.
- Producing certain proteins for blood plasma.
- Regulating blood clotting.
Many of our doctors participate in clinical trials to give you better access to new treatments. They have the most advanced technology at their disposal to diagnose your condition and create a treatment plan to effectively manage your symptoms.
An Oncology coordinator will coordinate your care, answer questions and schedule appointments for you. All of our doctors and our digestive health team will do their best to make you feel comfortable and at ease as we provide you with exceptional care.
Liver disorders we treat include:
Cirrhosis is a progressive liver disease that damages normal tissue and leaves scar tissue in its place. The liver cannot perform its functions optimally, and symptoms such as jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), abnormal nerve function and fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity can occur.
Cirrhosis is most commonly caused by alcohol abuse. Other contributing factors include hepatitis, use of certain drugs, chemical exposure and autoimmune diseases.
Proper nutrition, avoidance of certain toxins such as alcohol, and medical management can slow or delay liver damage. Damage due to cirrhosis, however, is not reversible. In severe cases, liver transplantation may be your best option.
Fatty Liver Disease
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the buildup of fat in the liver cells. This condition affects up to 25 percent of people in the U.S. Major risk factors for the disease include obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes.
The disease may cause swelling and scarring (cirrhosis) over time and may even lead to primary liver cancer.
Although several medications are being tested to combat this disease, our doctors focus primarily on treating the underlying risk factors of obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. Weight loss, physical exercise and a high-fiber/low-fat diet all can contribute to a healthy liver and stop the progression of fatty liver disease.
Viral hepatitis (A, B, C, D, E)
Viral hepatitis is a general term for inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. The most common types in the U.S. are hepatitis A, B and C. Types D and E are fairly rare in the U.S.
Hepatitis A and E are transmitted through contaminated food or water. A vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis A. Hepatitis D can only be contracted if hepatitis B is present.
Hepatitis B is a specific type of hepatitis that is caused by a virus. Globally, an estimated 250 million people are carriers of the hepatitis B virus and more than 500,000 die annually from hepatitis B-related liver disease.
Hepatitis B is transmitted through body fluids and secretions. Symptoms of an acute episode include fever, abdominal pain, fatigue, decreased appetite, nausea, and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice). We diagnose it with blood tests.
Fortunately, we have a vaccine to prevent hepatitis B and several medications to effectively treat the condition.
Prevalence of Hepatitis B in the Chinese Community
Hepatitis B affects a surprising number of people in the Chinese community, and many are completely unaware they are infected.
- One in 12 Asian Pacific Islanders are infected with chronic hepatitis B, compared to fewer than one in 1,000 in the Caucasian population.
- Two-thirds of all infected patients do not know they have the disease.
- Without monitoring by a doctor, people with hepatitis B may develop serious health complications, including liver cancer, liver cirrhosis or liver failure.
It is important to get screened as soon as possible. If you test positive, you may need treatment. If you test negative, you can consider getting vaccinated against the disease.
El Camino Health addresses hepatitis B as part of our Chinese Health Initiative, an effort to address unique health and cultural needs of the Chinese community in Silicon Valley.
We’ve taken a leadership role in the Hep B Free: Santa Clara County campaign. The campaign is a county-wide initiative dedicated to promoting awareness of hepatitis B and liver cancer. Our involvement includes planning, funding and creation of materials to generate awareness of this critical health issue.
El Camino Health provides free screening and education for hepatitis B for uninsured and under-served community members. We work in collaboration with the Asian Liver Center and the Herald Cancer Care Network.
Hepatitis C is a virus of the liver transmitted by contact with blood of a person who is infected. The most common symptom is fatigue, but many people have no symptoms at all. We can diagnose hepatitis C with a blood test.
Over time, chronic infection with the hepatitis C virus can damage the liver and lead to cirrhosis. Drinking alcohol and being overweight add to the risk of developing cirrhosis.
There are a number of medications to treat hepatitis C. In the vast majority of people, these medications have an excellent chance of curing the infection. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Wilson disease is a rare, inherited disorder that causes copper to build up in your liver. Absorbing copper in small amounts from the food you eat is healthy, but too much is harmful.
Normally, your liver releases extra copper into bile, a digestive fluid. With Wilson disease, the copper builds up in your liver, and it releases the copper directly into your bloodstream. This can cause damage to your liver, brain and kidneys, and even cause death in severe cases.
The buildup of copper begins at birth, but symptoms may not occur until age 5 to 35. A common sign of Wilson disease is a rusty brown ring around the cornea of the eye. A physical exam and laboratory tests can diagnose it.
Medicine can remove extra copper from your body, and a low-copper diet helps keep copper levels in a healthy range.