Fatty Liver, also known as hepatic steatosis, is a term a lot of people may not be familiar with. It occurs when too much fat builds up on the liver, which leads to liver inflammation. This can damage your liver and creates scarring and in severe cases, this scarring can lead to liver failure.
There are two main variations of Fatty Liver, alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Both are pretty self-explanatory, AFLD develops in someone who drinks a lot of alcohol whereas NAFLD occurs in people who do not drink much alcohol but develop the disease, usually due to obesity or high blood sugar.
Can I develop Fatty Liver?
Of course. Anyone can develop Fatty Liver.
Fatty Liver is more often than not developed because of many other conditions that can increase the risk of developing the disease. The most common cause is being overweight or obese, along with other conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnoea or high cholesterol.
What effects would developing Fatty Liver have on me?
Fatty liver can progress through four stages:
Simple fatty liver: There is a build-up of excess fat in the liver.
Steatohepatitis: In addition to excess fat, there is inflammation in the liver.
Fibrosis: Inflammation in the liver has caused scarring.
Cirrhosis: Scarring of the liver has become widespread.
Cirrhosis is a potentially life-threatening condition that can cause the liver to fail.
In most cases it is irreversible, so that’s why it’s so important to prevent it from developing in the first place.
Are there treatments for Fatty Liver? Is it reversible?
An immediate change in lifestyle choices can help reverse fatty liver disease. For example, limiting or completely avoiding alcohol, as well as changing eat and exercise habits with the goal to lose weight are effective treatments.
If the above does not succeed, your doctor may recommend additional treatments such as medications or bariatric surgery.
How do I find out if I have Fatty Liver?
To diagnose Fatty Liver, speak with your local doctor and discuss the possibility of you having the disease.
Your doctor may review your medical history and they are likely to ask you questions like the following:
- your family medical history, including any history of liver disease
- your alcohol consumption and other lifestyle habits
- any medical conditions that you might have
- any medications that you might take
- recent changes in your health
If you’ve been experiencing fatigue, loss of appetite, or other unexplained symptoms, let your doctor know as soon as possible.
Your doctor may also conduct a physical exam to check for liver inflammation, but may not be able to comfortably determine whether you have Fatty Liver or not. At this point, they are likely to request blood tests and then request additional testing such as an ultrasound, CT or MRI scan.
If Fatty Liver is confirmed, the next step will most likely be a liver biopsy.
A needle is inserted into your liver and a piece of tissue is removed for examination, which helps determine the severity of your liver disease.
Ultimately, it’s possible to reverse fatty liver through lifestyle changes and this may help prevent liver damage and scarring.
If left untreated, complications such as inflammation, damage to your liver, and potentially irreversible scarring may occur. Severe liver scarring is known as cirrhosis.
If you develop cirrhosis, it increases your risk of liver cancer and liver failure, which can be fatal.
For the best outcome, determine if you have Fatty Liver after consulting your local doctor and follow their treatment plan if diagnosed and begin practicing an overall healthy lifestyle to give yourself the best shot at reversing the disease.