Fatty liver is a medical term that describes the accumulation of fats in the liver. While it’s normal to have fats in the liver, too much of it could lead to fatty liver disease.
The liver is the largest organ in the body. It works by processing the food we eat, filtering the blood and secreting important enzymes for normal body processes. If the buildup of fat in the liver is at 10%, the organ cannot work properly. Usually, the liver is able to repair itself. Liver cells could regenerate when the old ones die. But once repeated damage occurs, the effects will become irreversible.
Fatty liver disease is a very common condition. Almost 20% of Americans have it. Individuals between the ages of 50 to 60 are the most susceptible to liver fatty disease.
Types of Fatty Liver Disease
There are four types of fatty liver disease. These are: Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver, Alcoholic Fatty Liver, Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) and Acute Fatty Liver of Pregnancy.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver or NAFL occurs when the liver can no longer break down fats as effectively. On the other hand, Alcoholic Fatty liver is the early stage of an alcohol-related liver disease. It’s caused by regular, heavy alcohol drinking. Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis or NASH is caused by the swelling of the liver. This disease could lead to impaired liver function and eventually, liver failure. Finally, Acute Fatty Liver of Pregnancy refers to a rare pregnancy complication. This is a life-threatening liver condition that begins in the third trimester.
Signs and Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease
Unfortunately, this condition has no signs or symptoms until the liver becomes inflamed. However, poor appetite, fatigue, or slight abdominal pain could be a sign of fatty liver disease.
Causes of Fatty Liver Disease
This condition is also common among alcoholics, diabetics, or overweight individuals. Those who suffer from elevated cholesterol level and high blood pressure could also develop fatty liver disease. Insulin resistance, certain medications, viral infections and other toxins could also lead to this condition.
To diagnose this condition, you will go through a complete physical exam. From here the doctor will get an idea what caused fat to accumulate in the liver. Your medical history and lifestyle will be assessed by your doctor. Blood tests will be taken to check for inflammation. An ultrasound will be taken to detect the fat in the liver. To determine if you do suffer from fatty liver, you will go through a biopsy. A small needle is inserted into the abdomen to obtain a piece of your liver. The sample will be analyzed to get a proper diagnosis.
Treating and Preventing Fatty Liver Disease
Because there are four types of fatty liver disease, treatment will depend on the cause of the condition. For example, if the fatty liver is caused by alcoholism, abstaining from heavy drinking is the best way to treat an impaired liver. Lowering the cholesterol level and controlling the blood sugar level also helps prevent the progression of fatty liver.
A healthy, low cholesterol diet is a must if you suffer from the fatty liver disease. Exercise daily and maintain a normal weight to prevent this condition.