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Could You Have Fatty Liver Disease? Learn the Symptoms

Is your liver overweight? Fatty liver disease, once seldom seen except in heavy drinkers, has become an increasingly common problem in the 21st century. As many as one in three people may develop the disease, and the risk goes up if you have type 2 diabetes. But what is fatty liver disease, and what can you do about it? Today, the experts at Digestive Disorders Associates explain.

What is fatty liver disease?

Fatty liver disease, as the name implies, is a condition in which your liver accumulates too much fat. But unlike most of the fat on your body, which accumulates around or outside of things (such as your intestines, beneath your skin, etc.), in fatty liver disease, the fat is actually stored within the liver itself as fat deposits. This leads to an enlarged liver and, in some cases, to inflammation or even to liver damage.

Although fatty liver disease can be the result of excessive long-term alcohol consumption (alcoholic fatty liver disease), nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, is far more common. NAFLD can be divided into two categories: simple fatty liver (also known as isolated fatty liver), which is simply excessive fat within the liver; and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, in which there is inflammation and cell damage along with the accumulated fat. Simple fatty liver rarely progresses to more serious disease, but NASH can eventually lead to cirrhosis, or permanent scarring and hardening of the liver.

Symptoms of fatty liver disease

Fatty liver is most often a silent disease; that is, you can have the disease without experiencing any symptoms. In fact, if you have simple fatty liver, you probably won’t notice any symptoms; diagnostic tests may be needed to diagnose the disease. If you have NASH, you may notice pain in the upper right side of your abdomen (where your liver is located) or experience fatigue, or you may have no symptoms at all. Symptoms of the most severe damage (cirrhosis) can also include:

Who is most at risk for fatty liver disease?

Alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by excessive alcohol, so chronic drinkers are at high risk for fatty liver disease. For those who don’t over-imbibe, you’re more likely to develop fatty liver disease if:

Some medical conditions or treatments may also increase your risk of developing fatty liver disease. These include gallbladder removal, hepatitis C and certain medications such as:

Treatment for fatty liver disease

If you have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, getting your blood sugar under control is important. You may also be advised to have vaccinations against hepatitis A and B, which can cause liver damage. And if your doctor believes that one of your medications may be behind your fatty liver disease, you might be given an alternate prescription.  For most people with fatty liver disease, however, weight loss is the first line of treatment.

Losing just 10 percent of your body weight (20 pounds, for a 200-pound person) reduces the fat in your liver, and even 3 to 5 percent can reduce your risk. Weight loss may also help undo some of the damage caused by NASH, reducing inflammation and scarring.

If you suspect you may have fatty liver, or you’re at high risk for developing this silent disease, don’t wait for symptoms to develop. Contact Digestive Disorders Associates today and schedule an appointment.

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