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Fatty Liver? Some of it is normal...

Fatty Liver Disease

What is Fatty Liver Disease?

-A condition in which there is an increased buildup of fat in your liver cells. It is normal for your liver to contain some fat. However, if more than 5-10% of the liver’s weight is fat, then it is called a fatty liver (steatosis). There are two main types of fatty liver:

  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

  • Alcoholic fatty liver disease


NAFLD is a type of fatty liver accumulation that is not related to heavy alcohol use and alcoholic fatty liver disease is.

Who gets Fatty Liver Disease?

-Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is very common, affects up to 30% of the population in the western world and incidence is increasing with the growing rate of obesity. In the United States it is the most common form of chronic liver disease. People with the following are at the highest risk of having a fatty liver:

  • High blood pressure

  • Diabetes type II

  • BMI over 30 with obesity

  • Middle aged and older adults

  • Hispanics

  • Medications

  • High levels of cholesterol and triglycerides

  • Hepatitis C

Alcoholic liver disease is only seen in people who are heavy drinkers and those that have been drinking for a very long period of time.

​What are the Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease?

-Alcoholic and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease usually presents without symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may include fatigue, weakness, weight loss, itching, yellowing of the skin and eyes, swelling of the legs, eyes and abdomen.

How do I know if i have Fatty Liver Disease?

-Diagnosing fatty liver disease may be challenging since it commonly presents itself without any symptoms. Fatty liver disease is suspected when liver enzymes are elevated and/or when your liver looks unusual on ultrasound, however other liver disease must be ruled out first. The main complication associated with fatty liver disease is fibrosis and cirrhosis, which is caused by the scarring that occurs with chronic inflammation. In some cases you will need a liver biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, and to check how bad the liver damage is.

What are the treatments for Fatty Liver Disease?

-To reduce your risks of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, choose a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. This can reduce the amount of inflammation and reverse the process of fat accumulation in the liver. Certain medications that are known to cause fatty liver disease may have to be stopped or switched. For patients who suffer from alcoholic liver disease, its very important that they stop drinking alcohol. Any patient with fatty liver disease should get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B since getting either with a fatty liver is more likely to lead to liver failure.

Both alcoholic and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease have the potential to lead to cirrhosis. For patients who have cirrhosis, aggressive medical management and/or a liver transplantation may be an option.

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