What is Fatty Liver Disease?
Fatty liver disease is caused when extra fat is stored in the liver. Overall, 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 when you have fat in your liver but may not have the inflammation or damage to the liver cells. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a more serious form, in which inflammation is present in the liver. This can lead to serious issues such as cirrhosis.
There are usually no symptoms associated with fatty liver disease until it has progressed into cirrhosis of the liver. When this occurs, symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain.
- Weight loss.
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice).
- Swelling of the abdomen or legs.
How is Fatty Liver Disease Diagnosed?
Fatty liver disease usually has no symptoms, so it is often detected through a blood test for another condition. Elevated liver enzymes are a sign that you have liver damage, which will be what your doctor will look for in a blood test. Your doctor may also order more testing, including ultrasound, CT scan or a liver biopsy for proper diagnosis.
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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 cholesterol, triglycerides 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, protecting yourself from hepatitis C and checking with your doctor before mixing medication with alcohol. Staying at a healthy weight is also important, which can be achieved through regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet. If you are concerned about developing fatty liver disease, speak with your doctor regarding a prevention plan.
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