What is Fatty Liver Disease?
A small amount of fat usually doesn’t cause any harm to the liver. However, the excessive accumulation of fat in this vital organ causes fatty liver disease. It can hamper its proper functions, which include the production of bile and proteins, filtration of blood, blood clotting, energy storage, etc.
It is also known as hepatic steatosis. Read on to know fatty liver symptoms, types, & more.
Types of Fatty Liver Disease:
There are two types of fatty liver disease:
- Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: It develops in people who intake little or no alcohol. This is sub-classified into two types. Usually, people with a simple fatty liver do not experience any inflammation and only have the build-up of fat in the liver. However, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis leads to inflammation and swelling of the liver. If not diagnosed, it can lead to serious problems, including liver cirrhosis, fibrosis, liver cancer, and heart problems.
- Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: It occurs due to the extreme intake of alcohol and leads to hampering of liver cells and also in its inflammation. The size of the liver also gets enlarged. In the further stages, it can develop into alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis.
Fatty Liver Symptoms and Signs:
The disease in its early stages is usually asymptomatic, even when the size of the liver is expanding. However, gradually, it can lead to:
- Pain in the abdomen region
- Appetite and weight loss
- Spider angiomas (spider web-like blood vessels)
- Gynecomastia (increase in breast size of men)
- Leg and stomach swelling, etc.
Causes of Fatty Liver Disease:
- Certain genetic factors.
- Alcohol intake: While the liver performs its function of breaking down the consumed alcohol, certain toxic substances are released, which can damage it and lead to inflammation.
- Some medicines can also result in the development of the fatty liver disease.
- Insulin resistance, the condition in which the body cells refuse to take glucose from the blood, can also contribute to a fatty liver.
- Pregnancy in women is also responsible for this disease.
Fatty Liver Disease – Risk Factors:
Those who are malnourished, obese, and middle-aged have a higher chance of developing fatty liver disease. Other risk factors include excessive weight loss, having high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels. Moreover, those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, hepatitis C, and metabolic syndrome are more likely to have a fatty liver.
Fatty Liver Disease – Diagnosis and Tests:
- Since the disease is asymptotic, the doctors, in order to diagnose the disease, will perform the person’s physical examination to measure his height and weight and ask him about his lifestyle choices and medical history.
- An examination of jaundice and hepatitis C can also be done.
- Blood count and liver function tests might be conducted to assess the levels of liver enzymes.
- Biopsy, in which a sample of the liver tissue is removed using needles to check for scarring and inflammation, can also help in diagnosing the disease.
- Apart from these, imaging tests, which include ultrasounds, MRI, CT scans, etc, can identify a fatty liver.
Fatty Liver Disease Treatment:
- There are no medications available for treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. However, if diagnosed during its early stages, further damage can be halted by incorporating healthy habits in our lifestyle, like a proper diet plan and an exercise routine that can lead to weight loss and a reduction in liver fat and inflammation.
- If the disease has developed into its later stages, which include liver cirrhosis, certain medications and surgeries can be advised as a part of the treatment plan.
- In case of liver failure, a liver transplant can be done.
- Strategies and plans can be devised for an alcoholic person in order to curb his intake of alcohol.
- If some medicines have caused a fatty liver, the doctors might suggest to stop their consumption and also providing an alternative.
Fatty Liver Disease – Complication:
Fatty liver, if left undiagnosed, may gradually lead to fibrosis, liver cancer, and even liver cirrhosis, which is the scarring of the healthy liver tissues. Thus, the proper functioning of the liver gets severely damaged and chances of liver failure also get increased, since the harm caused due to the scarring of liver tissues is largely irreversible. Other complications include perplexity, slurred speech, swelling of the veins of the esophagus, accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, etc.
Fatty Liver Disease – Prevention:
- Fatty liver disease can be prevented by following various measures:
- A healthy diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables should be taken. Foods rich in trans and saturated fats should be avoided.
- Proper hydration should also be maintained.
- Vitamin E supplements can also be helpful in preventing the disease.
- Alcohol intake should be reduced or stopped for protecting the liver.
- An exercise regime and weight loss plans should also be followed.
- Apart from these, cholesterol and blood pressure levels should be monitored regularly. Diabetes levels should also be kept under control.
A beneficiary guide for fatty liver disease has been provided. Fatty Liver symptoms, causes, types, complications, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention have been mentioned to provide a one-stop for all the details regarding the disease.