Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, and can be caused by a wide variety of factors: viruses, alcohol, drugs, bacteria, parasites, overload of iron or copper in the diet, even excessive amounts of fat depositing in the cells. As the second largest organ in the body (behind skin), the liver has a wide number of functions: filtering wastes, detoxifying drugs, adding vital proteins to the blood and helping to control sugar. When inflammation occurs over time, scarring results in the liver. Severe scarring is called Cirrhosis. Cirrhosis prevents the blood from moving freely through the liver and it has to find other ways back to the heart–usually through bypass vessels in the esophagus, rectum or skin. These vessels (we call varices) can rupture and bleed. We can put rubber bands on these varices, or inject them to halt the flow of blood, provided patients arrive in time. Treatment focuses on finding and treating the cause of the hepatitis, decreasing the belly fluid (ascites) that builds up with the "clogged filter", and dealing with the sleepiness that results when wastes are not completely eliminated. These treatments work best when started early–so come in to see us soon for an evaluation.