It's no secret that a gastroenterologist is a doctor you need to see if you have digestive issues or need a colonoscopy. On the other hand, the precise scope of treatment provided by a gastroenterologist is frequently misunderstood. These experts also look after other organs involved in digestion, including the gallbladder, pancreas, and liver, outside the stomach.
Liver Function & Location
The liver is on the right side of the abdomen, just above the gallbladder. It's two lobes divided by connective tissue containing blood vessels and ducts. The primary purpose of the liver is to filter blood from the digestive tract. Apart from that, it secretes bile, which helps break down fats during digestion. It also detoxifies harmful chemicals in our body and metabolizes drugs according to how our system should process them.
The Liver Can Be Affected By These Diseases
Because the liver is crucial for proper body function, diseases that affect it can be severe and should be treated medically. Some conditions which may damage the liver are:
Hepatitis – Hepatitis is a liver disease that may be caused by several types of viral hepatitis A, B, or C. The degree of severity depends on the sort of hepatitis contracted. While hepatitis A goes away quickly and without incident, hepatitis B and C can both result in chronic liver inflammation.
Cirrhosis – Damages the liver causing scarring, and can come from sources such as hepatitis or alcohol abuse. This damage is usually irreversible, and a transplant may be necessary in severe cases.
Fatty Liver – Fatty liver is a condition that generally leads to cirrhosis. It occurs because of an excess of triglycerides inside the liver cells. If a fatty liver becomes swollen (steatohepatitis), scarring (fibrosis) may happen, which is when cirrhosis can develop.
Liver Cancer – The most frequent type of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which is often preceded by cirrhosis. The typical 5-year survival rate for HCC, when found in the early stages before the disease has spread, is 31%.
Gastroenterologist vs Hepatologist
Those suffering from liver disease may be unsure whether to visit hepatologists and gastroenterologists. Despite the overlap in the treatment fields, they have their differences.
A gastroenterologist is focused on all ten components of the digestive tract. While a hepatologist only studies the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and bile ducts.
A hepatologist and gastroenterologist have unique skills when caring for patients with liver disease. However, this does not mean that one is better than the other. Both providers use similar methods for diagnosing and treating liver diseases.
A gastroenterologist is a medical professional specializing in diagnosing and treating disorders of the digestive system, including the liver. They use various methods, such as exams, blood tests, and imaging scans, to assess your condition and recommend treatment options.
A hematologist is more concerned with the liver and surrounding organs. They may utilize similar exams, such as bloodwork and imaging, to check your liver function. If they are a transplant specialist, they may suggest a liver transplant if required.
Selecting a gastroenterologist in contrast to a hepatologist will also come down to your needs. You'll want somebody you feel comfortable communicating with who addresses all your questions and concerns. Before seeing a specialist, talk to your primary care provider to decide who you should visit to diagnose and treat liver disease.
Find Liver & Gut Health at Digestive Health Partners
We encourage you to contact us and set up an appointment to help diagnose and help you find the best treatment plan for managing your gut health.