What is a Fatty Liver?
A fatty liver can be defined as a liver being engulfed by fats. This is medically termed as Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) or Non-Alcoholic Steatorrhoeic Hepatosis (NASH). It is however difficult to tell when someone is already developing fatty liver because this cannot be seen by the naked eyes. Developing fats on the liver isn’t entirely a bad thing though, so long as fats do not account for about 5-10% of the liver’s total weight.Fatty liver commonly happens to overweight or obese people. Nearly 15 million people in the United States suffer from alcohol abuse and it was found that about 90-100% of these people indeed develop fatty liver disease.
For you to better understand the nature of a fatty liver, it would be helpful if you first get to know the functions of the liver as well as its healthy appearance. Just so you know the primary function of the liver is to help detoxify and cleanse the body from its wastes. The liver appears to be reddish because this is highly vascular. You can see lots of blood and fluid-filled spaces within the liver if you try to take a close look at it using a sophisticated microscope which can magnify the liver for about a million times. As more blood gushes into the minute spaces of the liver the toxins and other wastes are ferried out of your system. This is typically how the liver helps filter wastes in the body. Certain factors which cause fatty liver alter the normal functioning of the liver and thus hamper its filtering capacity. It is imperative that you acquaint yourself with this condition as you may also be vulnerable to this.
Fatty Liver Symptoms
Certainly, it’s hard to tell when someone is suffering from a fatty liver disease. So, judging by the apparent symptoms, you could suspect that someone is suffering from such condition which eventually leads to further diagnosis. The problem is that fatty liver could be very stealthy and may never produce any symptoms especially during the early stages of the disease. The prevalent symptoms that would most likely be present alongside a fatty liver include the following:
- Abdominal pain (especially on the right, upper portion where the liver is located)
- Dark skin discoloration (on the neck and on the armpits)
- Decreased appetite
- Easy fatigability
- Enlarged liver (felt during deep palpation of the liver)
- Fluid retention
- Internal bleeding (due to the alterations in the normal functions of the liver
- Weight loss
Fatty Liver Causes
There may be several conditions which lead to the development of fatty liver. During the progression of fatty liver development, the spaces which were once occupied by healthy cells and blood will gradually be replaced by fats. Initially, smaller portions get affected. However, over time the entire liver will all be engulfed by fatty matter making it almost impossible for the liver to perform its functions. That’s why it is very crucial to treat a fatty liver while the condition can still be reversed, otherwise serious complications will be inevitable.
On the other hand, you should not immediately worry when you are diagnosed to have a fatty liver because this does not mean that you are already doomed. So long as the development of a fatty liver does not yet involve any inflammatory process then your condition is entirely manageable through certain treatments.
Those who develop a fatty liver do not necessarily imply that they drink alcohol massively. In fact nearly 20% of adults just suffer from fatty liver disease even when they did nothing to trigger such condition. Also, about 6 million children all over the world suffer from this condition. Specifically, the following are among the leading causes of fatty liver disease:
- Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2)
- High blood pressure
- Medications (including corticosteroids and tetracycline)
- Protein malnutrition
The presence of fatty liver can be diagnosed through certain tests especially those that measure the values of liver enzymes. Liver enzymes such as alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) are usually elevated in the presence of a fatty liver. Your doctor may also have to perform an ultrasound to check for fatty liver. Liver biopsy may also be done to confirm the condition. However, this is a delicate procedure since this is invasive wherein your surgeon may have to get a sample of your liver tissue for biopsy. This is carefully done so as not to puncture the liver, otherwise bleeding would result since the liver has an abundant blood supply.
Fatty Liver Treatment
Treatment for fatty liver is oftentimes variable and is based on the underlying cause. Once you have been diagnosed to have a fatty liver, you cannot be too complacent anymore because your liver now becomes very fragile that it could get easily injured by some triggering factors.
Some of the commonly indicated treatments for fatty liver are:
- Quitting vices like smoking and drinking would help halt the aggravation of the disease.
- Also, gradually losing weight is suggested to overcome obesity which is certainly a huge factor in the development of fatty liver. Losing weight actually greatly helps in preventing the worsening of the condition. However, you should remember that you are only limited to lose at most 1-2 pounds each week and no more than that.
- You should also avoid taking any medications which are not really prescribed. There are certain medications which can be linked to oxidative stress, diabetes mellitus and the development of fatty liver.
- When all of the above mentioned remedies seem to be futile, liver transplant is the last option in which the surgeon has to remove the deceased portion of the liver and replaces it with another healthy liver portion.
Making some modifications on your diet also helps make a huge difference in the recovery from fatty liver. It is imperative that you observe a balanced diet. Avoid foods high in fat content and those that contain carbohydrates that are easily digested. This means that you have to avoid foods such as those that contain concentrated sugar including both white rice and white bread.