The liver is considered to be the second-largest organ in the human body that performs multiple functions. The main function of a healthy liver is to process nutrients from food and remove harmful substances from the blood. While it is completely natural for a healthy liver to contains a small amount of fat, but too much can become a serious health issue. Fatty liver is a common disorder caused by the accumulation of abnormal fat in the liver cells. Most affected individuals have no noticeable symptoms unless there’s progression to liver damage.
Fatty Liver Disease: What is it and what are the Risk Factors?
As already mentioned above, fatty liver disease is a common health condition that occurs when too much unhealthy fat builds up or get stored in the liver cells, leading to liver inflammation and sometimes even internal liver injury. The health condition affects up to 25 % of adults and about 5 % of children approximately. The medical term for this disease is hepatic steatosis. Health care experts sometimes call the condition a silent disease. This is because many patients may not realize they have fatty liver, even as the disease progresses. There are two forms of fatty liver disease:
- Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) – When the fatty liver disease develops in an individual who doesn’t drink a lot of alcohol.
- Alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) – When the disease develops in an individual who drinks a lot of alcohol.
The Risk Factors of Fatty Liver Disease
There are a variety of risk factors that cause fatty liver disease. Well, some of the known and common risk factors are:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- High-fat diet
- Protein malnutrition
- Obesity or excess body weight
- High blood pressure
- Insulin resistance
- Age and ethnicity
- Lack of exercise
Some of the lesser-known risk factors of fatty liver disease:
- Rapid weight loss
- some types of infections, such as hepatitis C
- exposure to certain toxins
Individuals with a family history of the condition are more likely to develop it themselves.
What are the Common Symptoms of Fatty Liver?
Both NAFLD and AFLD are usually silent diseases with few or no noticeable symptoms. However, if you do have any symptoms, you may feel tired or experience upper right abdominal pain or discomfort. In some cases, some patients with fatty liver disease may also develop severe health complications that include liver fibrosis or liver scarring. At the point when this condition becomes severe, it may lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. The liver damage caused by cirrhosis generally cannot be undone.
Liver cirrhosis is a potentially life-threatening condition that may cause common symptoms such as :
- Weight loss
- Persistent fever
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling of legs
- Swelling of stomach
- Red palms
- Itchy skin
- Breast enlargement in males
- Yellow skin and eyes
- Mental confusion
How is a Fatty Liver Diagnosed?
Since there are often no noticeable or obvious signs and symptoms, it is quite difficult to identify fatty liver disease. To diagnose the condition, your health care provider will use your medical history, conduct a physical checkup and order some tests including liver biopsy. If you have been experiencing tiredness, fatigue, loss of appetite, or any other unexplained symptoms, it is important to let your health care provider know.
What is the Treatment for Fatty Liver?
Well, current there are no medications that have been approved for the treatment of the condition. In most cases, the disease can be managed and treated by making small lifestyle and dietary changes. Listed below are some ways by which the condition can be controlled:
- Getting regular exercise that helps in weight reduction
- Monitoring of medications for other health conditions (high blood cholesterol and sugar levels)
- Proper management of diabetes
- Limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption
What is the Right Fatty Liver Diet?
One of the best ways to treat the disease, regardless of type (NAFLD) or (AFLD), is a healthy and well-balanced diet. If you have fatty liver disease, you should follow a proper diet to shed extra weight slowly but steadily. This is because rapid weight loss, like already described above, is one of the lesser-known risk factors, that can make the condition worse. Your health care professional may encourage you to adjust your regular diet. The effective way to treat fatty liver and lower your risk of complications is to eat a diet that has good fats, rich in plant-based foods, including vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains.
Is the Disease Reversible or Curable?
The liver is the unique organ in the human body that has an amazing ability to regenerate or repair itself. By avoiding alcohol consumption entirely if possible, limiting sugar and salt intake in your diet, and getting regular exercise to help lose weight, it is possible to reduce abnormal fats from the liver and reverse or even cure early liver damage.
The Final Note
Considering fatty liver disease as a prior warning sign can help you avoid fatal liver conditions, like liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. With this in mind, it becomes more important to take steps to reverse or stop the fatty liver disease even if there are no obvious symptoms or any liver function issues at this point. After all, the liver is one of the body organs you cannot survive without.