Fatty Liver: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factor, Diagnosis, Treatment And Prevention
Fatty liver is also known as hepatic steatosis. It occurs when the fat builds up in the liver. If you are having small amounts of fat in your liver then it is normal for you but if it is more than normal then you must counsel your doctor. As we all know the liver is the second largest organ in our body. It processes nutrients from food and drinks and filters harmful substances to keep us healthy. Here in our blog, we will discuss what causes fatty Liver, its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. If you are having liver inflammation then you might be having too much fat in your liver. It may lead to damage to your liver and may create scarring which leads to liver failure. When a person drinks a lot of alcohol then fatty liver develops in him which is known as alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD). And who doesn’t drink a lot of alcohol is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Types of Fatty Liver Disease
There are two main types of fatty liver disease:-
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) includes simple nonalcoholic fatty liver, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP).
- Alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) includes simple AFLD and alcoholic steatohepatitis (ASH).
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
It occurs when fat builds up in the liver who doesn’t drink alcohol in excess. If you have no history of heavy alcohol use but still are facing fatty liver issues then your doctor may diagnose you with NAFLD. If you face no such inflammation or other complications then this condition is known as simple nonalcoholic fatty liver.
Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)
It occurs when a build-up of excess fat in the liver causes liver inflammation. If you have excess fat in your liver but have no history of heavy alcohol use then you will be diagnosed with NASH. When left untreated, NASH can cause scarring of your liver. In severe cases, this can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.
Acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP)
Acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP) is a rare but serious complication of pregnancy. It usually appears in the third trimester of pregnancy. If left untreated, it brings serious health risks to both the mother and the developing baby. During this situation, your doctor will suggest you deliver your baby asap. Follow-up care is necessary for several days after the delivery.
Alcoholic fatty liver disease (ALFD)
Drinking alcohol in excess damages the liver. And when it gets damaged, the liver is unable to break down the fat properly due to which fat builds up, which is known as alcoholic fatty liver. It is the earliest stage of alcohol-related liver disease. If you are not facing inflammation or other complications then this condition is known as a simple alcoholic fatty liver.
Alcoholic steatohepatitis (ASH)
Alcoholic steatohepatitis (ASH) is a type of AFLD that happens when excess fat is found in the liver along with liver inflammation. It is termed alcoholic hepatitis. If you are facing liver inflammation and have excess fat in your liver and you drink a lot of alcohol then you will be diagnosed with ASH. If it is not treated properly then it can cause scarring of your liver which later leads to cirrhosis disease and then to liver failure. It is important to avoid alcohol on time when you face such issues.
Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease
Generally, in many cases, there are no symptoms of fatty liver. But you may feel tiredness or discomfort or pain in the upper right side of your abdomen. People having fatty liver disease develop complications such as liver scarring also known as liver fibrosis. And when this gets severe then you face cirrhosis disease.
In Cirrhosis you may face symptoms like:-
- itchy skin
- weight loss
- loss of appetite
- abdominal pain
- state of confusion
- abdominal swelling
- swelling in your legs
- yellowing of skin and eyes
- chest enlargement in men
Cirrhosis is a potentially life-threatening condition and for more details, you can read a blog related to it.
Causes of Fatty Liver
When our body doesn’t metabolize fat efficiently then fatty liver develops. The excess of fat is stored in liver cells and causes fatty liver disease. This fat can be caused by drinking too much alcohol.
Few factors that play a vital role in causing fatty liver are as follows:
- high blood sugar
- insulin resistance
- high levels of fat
Less common causes are:
- exposure to toxins
- hepatitis C infections
- side effects medicines
- a sudden increase in weight loss
Certain genes may also increase the risk of developing fatty liver.
Diagnosis of Fatty Liver
To diagnose fatty liver, the doctor will check your medical history and ask you to go through a physical exam. If your doctor suspects that you might have a fatty liver disease then he will ask you a few questions regarding:-
- medical conditions
- recent changes in your health
- about medications that you are taking
- alcohol consumption and lifestyle habits
- family medical history, including the history of liver disease
If you are experiencing fatigue, loss of appetite, or other symptoms, then tell your doctor about it.
To check for liver inflammation, your doctor will press on your abdomen to check if your liver is enlarged or not. It might be possible to have liver inflammation even when your liver is not enlarged.
In many cases, fatty liver disease is diagnosed after blood test reports that show elevated liver enzymes. Your doctor may ask you to provide the alanine aminotransferase test (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase test (AST) to check your liver enzymes. If you have elevated liver enzymes then he might ask you to go for additional tests to identify the cause of the inflammation.
The doctor also suggests going for imaging tests that help to check for excess fat or other problems related to your liver. This includes the following imaging:-
- Fatty liver ultrasound
- CT scan
- MRI scan
Apart from this, your doctor might also ask for vibration-controlled transient elastography (VCTE, FibroScan) test. This test measures liver stiffness by low-frequency sound waves to check for liver scarring.
A liver biopsy is the best way to find the severity of liver disease in your body. During a liver biopsy, the doctor inserts a needle into your liver and picks a piece of tissue for examination. He will give you a local anesthetic to lessen the pain. This helps to check if you have fatty liver disease or liver scarring.
You will be at heightened risk if you are having the following things:
- type 2 diabetes
- insulin resistance
- high cholesterol levels
- metabolic syndrome
- high triglyceride levels
- high blood sugar levels
- drinking too much alcohol
- polycystic ovary syndrome
- taking certain medications
- family history of liver disease,
- history of certain infections, such as hepatitis C
Stages of fatty liver
Fatty liver can progress through four stages:
- Simple fatty liver-Build-up of excess fat in the liver.
- Steatohepatitis- There is inflammation in the liver.
- Fibrosis-Inflammation causes scarring.
- Cirrhosis-Scarring has widespread.
Cirrhosis is a life-threatening condition in which liver failure may also occur. This is an irreversible condition. It is important to prevent it and you need to follow your doctor’s treatment plan.
To prevent fatty liver and its potential complications you should follow a healthy lifestyle.
- Avoid alcohol,
- Eat a nutrient-rich diet,
- Aim for 30 minutes of exercise
- Follow the doctor’s treatment plan for diabetes.
- Maintain proper weight according to the height,
- Control your blood sugar, triglyceride levels, and cholesterol levels.
Taking these steps can also help improve your overall health.