What is Fatty Liver Disease?
Fatty liver disease is a condition where extra fat is stored in the liver. There are two categories of fatty liver disease: Alcohol-related fatty liver disease (ALD) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Alcohol-Related Fatty Liver Disease: This condition is caused by heavy drinking. Over time, excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to a buildup of fat in the liver cells, impairing liver function.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: There are two main types of NAFLD. The first is simple fatty liver, which is a condition of excessive fat in the liver but no significant inflammation or damage to the liver cells. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a more serious form, in which the liver is inflamed and there is damage to liver cells. This can lead to serious issues such as cirrhosis.
There are usually no symptoms associated with early fatty liver disease, although pain in the right upper abdomen can occur. Most manifestations occur when fatty liver has progressed to cirrhosis of the liver. When this occurs, symptoms may include:
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- Swelling of the abdomen or leg
- Itching of the skin
- Weight loss
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
How is Fatty Liver Disease Diagnosed?
Fatty liver disease usually has no symptoms, so it is often suspected because of abnormalities on a routine blood test. Elevated liver enzymes are a sign that you have liver damage. Your doctor may also order more testing, including additional blood work, ultrasound, CT scan, elastography or a liver biopsy for proper diagnosis.
Liver Research Helps Improve Patient Outcomes
Treatment Options for Fatty Liver Disease
The main course of action when it comes to treatment is to control those factors contributing to fatty liver disease. Individuals in the early stages of liver damage may be able to reduce liver fat and inflammation when taking these courses of action. This may include lifestyle changes such as:
- Avoiding consuming alcohol.
- Weight loss (this may include following the Mediterranean diet).
- Exercising regularly.
- Taking proper medications to control high blood pressure, lipids and diabetes.
How Can I Prevent Fatty Liver Disease?
There are some steps you can take to help prevent the development of fatty liver disease. This includes drinking alcohol in moderation. Staying at a healthy weight through regular exercise, eating a healthy, balanced diet, and controlling other medical problems. If you are concerned about developing fatty liver disease, speak with your doctor regarding a prevention plan.
Fatty Liver FAQs
What causes a person to have a fatty liver?
Some people may get fatty liver disease without any pre-existing conditions. However, those who are obese or overweight, have type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or dyslipidemia are more likely to develop it. Very few medications are associated with fatty liver.
What foods should you avoid if you have a fatty liver?
If you have fatty liver disease, it is recommended that you avoid foods high in saturated fat such as full-fat cheese, red meat, fried and baked good made with palm or coconut oils. Sugary foods and drinks like candy and soda are also not recommended. Minimization of carbohydrates in the diet is also beneficial.
How long can you live with a fatty liver?
Thirty to forty percent of Americans have fatty liver disease. A percentage of these patients will develop steatohepatitis (liver inflammation) or cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) which require comprehensive treatment.
Where do you feel liver pain?
Pain in the liver can feel like a throbbing or stabbing pain in the right upper abdomen, just under the ribs. If you are experiencing liver pain, contact South Denver GI for diagnosis and treatment.
Does fatty liver cause back pain?
Fatty liver is not usually associated with back pain in its early stages. However, some patients may report a dull ache in their stomach.
Is fatty liver painful?
Most people with fatty liver have no symptoms. However, some people can experience a discomfort or fullness feeling in the right upper abdomen.
How serious is a fatty liver?
Fatty liver disease can progress into serious liver damage, including cirrhosis, if it worsens. If you are experiencing the symptoms of fatty liver disease, contact South Denver GI to schedule an appointment.
Can fatty liver Be Cured?
Yes, fatty liver can be reversed and even cured if patients take action early on. One effective way to do this is through lifestyle and dietary changes. Losing weight, taking time to be physically active, cutting back on sugar, and eating a nutrient-rich diet are all methods that may lead to a reversal or cure of fatty liver disease.
How can fatty liver disease be managed?
Lifestyle and dietary changes are the quickest and most effective options for managing fatty liver disease. This may include incorporating exercise into your daily routine, eating a healthy and nutrient-rich diet, avoiding sugary foods and drinks, and losing weight. At South Denver GI, we will help create a personalized plan for you to help reduce your fatty liver symptoms. This includes our partnership with NovoLiver - a program designed to spur weight loss and reverse fatty liver disease.
What are the warning signs of fatty liver disease?
Most people with fatty liver disease have no symptoms. However, some people may experience fullness in the upper right side of the belly. If fatty liver progresses to more advanced disease, people may experience jaundice, a swollen abdomen or swollen legs. Our team at South Denver GI can promptly diagnose and treat your symptoms to provide treatment to improve your quality of life.
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