Liver Disease

Are the new treatments for hepatitis C optimistic?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My son has a hepatitis C infection, based on a blood test. The doctor says he's OK now, but could someday become seriously ill. I hear there are new treatments for hepatitis C. Is there reason for optimism?

DEAR READER: Hepatitis C is caused by a viral infection that inflames and damages the liver. ("Hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver.) The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is usually transmitted through contact with infected blood. HCV can cause short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) hepatitis C. Most people with acute hepatitis C eventually develop chronic hepatitis C.

What pain relievers are safe to take for tension headaches if you have cirrhosis of the liver?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have cirrhosis of the liver. I also get tension headaches. What pain reliever can I take for my tension headaches?

DEAR READER: One of the liver's many jobs is detoxification -- ridding the blood of toxins. Cirrhosis, a liver disease, interferes with the liver's ability to detoxify substances in the blood. Your liver sees medications as toxins. When your liver is compromised, medications that are normally considered "safe" may no longer be safe for you.

What is fatty liver disease?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor says I have fatty liver disease, but I rarely drink. So how is this possible?

DEAR READER: I can understand your surprise, since it used to be that fatty liver disease was usually caused by abusing alcohol. However, it has also been true that obesity and diabetes could cause fatty liver. Perhaps you have one of these conditions. In the past 30 years, as obesity and diabetes have become more common, so has fatty liver disease.