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The Dangers of a Fatty Liver

Written by Courteney

Posted on March 19, 2017 at 4:14 pm

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Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and alcoholic fatty liver disease are two subtypes of a dangerous condition whereby a person’s liver is comprised of over 5-10% fat. While fatty liver disease is generally a reversible condition, if it is left unchecked, it can be fatal in its later stages.

What Are the Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease?

Fatty liver disease can be asymptomatic initially, or it may cause such symptoms as: fatigue, weight loss or loss of appetite, nausea, weakness, confusion or poor concentration. It may also cause an enlarged liver. Eventually, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can lead to cirrhosis (irreversible scarring) of the liver, which is a life-threatening condition. Symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver include:

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Gynecomastia
  • An enlarged spleen
  • Enlarged blood vessels under the skin
  • Jaundice (yellowed skin)
  • Reddened palms

Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by exactly what its title suggests: consuming too much alcohol. It could be the result of long term alcoholism, or it could even be caused by one or two large-scale drinking binges. Some people have a genetic predisposition that may prevent their body from efficiently breaking down alcohol, making them more likely to develop alcoholic fatty liver disease. Luckily, many cases of alcoholic fatty liver disease are reversible if the person abstains from drinking more alcohol, but if it is left untreated and the person continues to drink, they are risking deadly liver complications.

Causes of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

While every case is different and the exact causes aren’t always pinpointed, some causes may include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Losing a large amount of weight too quickly
  • Certain medications
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Certain viruses
  • High triglyceride level in the blood or high cholesterol
  • A chronically poor, or high fat diet may contribute
  • Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)
  • Insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes is highly associated with fatty liver disease)
  • Those with diabetes, thyroid problems, polycystic ovarian syndrome or sleep apnea are at higher risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease than others.
  • Rarely, pregnancy can cause fat to build up in the liver

Diagnosis and Treatment

Fatty liver disease is typically diagnosed when routine blood test screening of the liver (such as the ALT or GTT test) shows abnormal readings. It can also be diagnosed if the liver feels enlarged during a physical examination or ultrasound test. The doctor will likely order further tests to confirm his or her suspicion of a fatty liver. Treatment for fatty liver disease usually focuses more on lifestyle modification and treating comorbid conditions such as hyperglycemia or high cholesterol. If the person has alcoholic fatty liver disease the primary objective is break the dependency and have the patient quit drinking completely. If the patient is overweight, a healthier diet would be implemented and weight loss of 5-10% of the person’s overall body weight would be recommended.

That concludes our look at fatty liver disease, thank-you for visiting DocChat!

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