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Complications of Fatty Liver Disease

Complications of Fatty Liver Disease

Fatty liver disease affects an estimated 80-100 million Americans, making it the most common liver disorder in the United States. This condition doesn’t always have outward symptoms, but quietly causes severe liver damage that can lead to the need for a liver transplant. 

At Digestive Disorders Associates, with offices in Gambrills, Chester, and Annapolis, Maryland, our experienced gastroenterological team can diagnose fatty liver disease early and help you control the factors that lead to worsening of the condition. 

Here’s why you should pay attention if you have fatty liver disease.

Fatty liver disease means your liver has too much fat

You need a healthy liver to digest food, store energy, and remove toxins. Fatty liver disease means that more than 5% of your liver is made up of fat cells. You might associate fatty liver disease with alcoholics, but nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) occurs in people who do not drink an excessive amount of alcohol. 

NAFLD is more likely to affect people of Hispanic or Asian descent rather than other ethnicities. Postmenopausal women, people with a high level of belly fat, and those with hypertension, diabetes, or high cholesterol are also at greater risk. If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, you also have a greater chance of developing the disease. 

Fatty liver disease can progress

Fatty liver disease doesn’t usually have symptoms, especially in its early, mild state. But in some people, the condition can progress to a more serious version known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). 

With NASH, your liver is inflamed, which can lead to scarring, and cirrhosis. Fluid can build up in your abdomen. The veins in your esophagus (the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach) may swell, rupture, and bleed. Liver cancer and end-stage liver failure may follow. If you experience liver failure, you’ll need an organ transplant.

Diagnosis of fatty liver disease

Fatty liver disease isn’t regularly picked up because it doesn’t always cause symptoms. You usually only know you have it if abnormal numbers are picked up during a standard liver function tests or you have a scan of your abdomen for another health reason. 

It’s a good idea to have your liver function checked if you have risk factors for developing fatty liver disease like Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or obesity, or if you take certain prescription medications like steroids and amiodarone. 

If you do experience any of the following symptoms, you’re condition has likely already progressed to cirrhosis of the liver:

If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment at our offices right away for an evaluation. 

Avoiding complications of fatty liver disease

There is no specific treatment for fatty liver disease. Your care plan includes lifestyle modifications like avoiding alcohol, losing weight, and controlling cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglycerides with medications. These steps can help prevent progression to cirrhosis of the liver, if fatty liver disease is detected early.

Although drug treatments for fatty liver disease are under investigation, none are proven as a treatment for the condition at this time. 

If you’re at risk for fatty liver disease or are showing symptoms of complications, contact Digestive Disorders Associates right away. Call to schedule your appointment or use this website to book a visit at one of our offices in Gambrills, Annapolis, or Chester, Maryland.

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