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September 20, 2022 In Obesity By Dr. Vikas Singhal

Fatty Liver Disease | Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Fatty liver is a common condition caused by the storage of additional fat in the liver. In most cases, fatty liver can lead to liver damage. The good news is you can prevent and reverse a fatty liver condition with appropriate treatment and lifestyle changes. 

Fatty liver, also known as hepatic steatosis, occurs when there is a build-up of fat in the liver. The presence of small amounts of fat around the liver is normal. But extra fat around the liver can have severe repercussions. 

The liver is the second-largest organ of the human body. It helps in the processing of food nutrients. The liver also eliminates toxins present in your blood. The presence of abnormal fat in the liver can create inflammation. Prolonged inflammation of the liver leads to scarring. Fatty liver is a serious health disorder, and you should be aware of its symptoms and treatments.    

Functions of Liver

The liver is an essential organ of the human body. It executes multiple life-supporting functions like:

  • Producing bile which aids with digestion 
  • Developing proteins for the human body 
  • Storing iron 
  • Converting nutrients into energy 
  • Developing substances that assist in clotting your blood 
  • Helping your body resist chronic infections 

Overview of Fatty Liver Disease 

Fatty liver is a common condition caused by the accumulation of additional fat in your liver. A healthy liver comprises a small amount of fat. The situation may be alarming when fat reaches 5% to 10% of the liver’s mass.  

Repercussions of Fatty Liver Disease 

Fatty liver illness advances through the following three stages:

  • The liver becomes swollen, which is also known as steatohepatitis. 
  • When the liver becomes swollen, scar tissue develops. Your liver is suffering from fibrosis at this stage. 
  • Scar tissue substitutes the healthy tissue of the liver. When this happens, you’re suffering from liver cirrhosis. 

Types of Fatty Liver Disease 

Here are the two types of fatty liver disease you should know about. 

  • Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease 

Customary to its name, this condition develops in people who don’t consume alcohol heavily. Note that obesity and diabetes are the primary reasons behind this condition. 

  • Alcohol-Induced Fatty Liver 

Heavy drinkers are prone to develop this fatty liver condition. Alcoholics are vulnerable to this type of fatty liver illness.   

  • Symptoms of Fatty Liver 

One should be aware of the fatty liver symptoms to undergo prompt treatment. Doctors call fatty liver disease a silent illness. Even as the disease progresses, an individual might not experience any symptoms. Fatty liver disease can enlarge the liver. When this happens, you may face discomfort and pain in your abdomen’s upper-right area. The fatty liver disease symptoms are as follows:

  • Moderate to heavy pain in the abdominal area 
  • Extreme loss of food cravings and weight loss 
  • Abnormal increase in the bilirubin levels 
  • Yellowish skin
  • Extreme fatigue 
  • Inability to pursue strenuous workloads 

Significance of Timely Treatment and Surgery for Fatty Liver 

Fatty liver condition is closely associated with obesity. If you are non-alcoholic but obese, opting for timely treatment is imperative to manage the fatty liver condition. Patients with obesity and advanced fatty liver should undergo bariatric weight loss surgery. 

By undergoing bariatric surgery at the earliest, you’ll be able to lower the complications. Modern-day doctors opine that bariatric surgery may help prevent the progression of fatty liver to cirrhosis. When you’re obese and suffering from fatty liver disease, the risk of developing other illnesses is always high. 

Undergoing bariatric surgery at the right time will assist you in decreasing the possibility of developing severe cardiovascular illnesses. Obesity is the major risk factor for developing an advanced type of fatty liver disease called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Bariatric surgery can be helpful in minimising excess fat and managing the aggravating symptoms of fatty liver.  

Fatty Liver Disease Causes

A wide variety of factors can cause fat to accumulate in the liver. Drinking excess alcohol may cause alcoholic-induced fatty liver disease. Heavy consumption of alcohol changes the metabolic processes in the liver. 

Some of these metabolic products can combine with fatty acids leading to the development of fat. Individuals may suffer from fatty liver disorder without suffering from any pre-existing conditions. You have a greater chance of developing fatty liver for the following reasons. 

  • Obesity 
  • Higher fat levels, like triglycerides, in the blood 
  • Resistance to insulin 
  • High levels of blood sugar or type-2 diabetes 

These are the primary causes of fatty liver. In people with obesity, the excess fat acts as a toxin to the liver cells. They cause liver inflammation that ultimately leads to fatty liver. If you are suffering from obesity, undergoing bariatric surgery is the best option. 

Risk Factors associated with Fatty Liver Disease 

A wide range of illnesses and conditions can augment the risk of developing fatty liver disease. They are as follows:

  • Higher levels of cholesterol 
  • Suffering from sleep apnea 
  • Underactive thyroid 
  • People with belly fat 
  • Metabolic syndrome 
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome 

Fatty Liver Diagnosis 

After confirming the signs of fatty liver, your doctor will rely on the following methods for proper diagnosis. 

  • Health History 

Your doctor will inquire about your alcohol use. This information will assist the doctor in ascertaining whether you’ve ALD or NAFLD. 

  • Comprehensive Physical Examination 

Your doctor will weigh you and check for the signs of liver problems. Then, with a comprehensive physical examination, they can identify issues like an enlarged liver or jaundice. 

  • Imaging Tests 

The common imaging tests for fatty liver diagnosis include ultrasound, CT scans, or MRI. These tests will identify the presence of fat in the liver. 

  • Blood Tests 

Blood tests can show if you’ve high levels of liver enzymes. If there are liver enzymes present in the blood, you may be suffering from fatty liver. 

Factors that may Deteriorate Fatty Liver

Here are the top factors that may deteriorate fatty liver. 

  • Obesity 
  • Sedentary lifestyle 
  • Excess intake of fat and calorie-rich foods 
  • Presence of high sugar levels in the blood 
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol 

When is the Situation Alarming for People with Fatty Liver?

It is pretty normal to have some amount of fat in the abdomen and around the liver. But things can get worse when fat develops up to the percent of the liver. If you are obese and have high levels of blood sugar, undergoing treatment is necessary. Moreover, if you consume prescription medicines like NSAIDs, methotrexate, etc., you’re more likely to develop fatty liver disease. 

Treatment for Fatty Liver Disease 

If you are suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver, the primary treatment procedure is to reduce weight. If the weight loss methods are not offering you adequate results, undergoing bariatric surgery is ideal. The liver can repair itself. 

If you reduce your abdomen fat with bariatric surgery, it is possible to reverse fatty liver. Here are some other fatty liver treatment procedures that your doctor may prescribe.  

  • Avoiding alcohol 
  • Prescribing you medicines to control blood sugar levels, triglycerides, and cholesterol
  • Asking you to maintain a balanced diet 
  • Losing weight 

If you are suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, consult a bariatric surgeon today. The surgeon may perform a bariatric surgery to help you lose fat around the abdomen and liver.  

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