Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and alcoholic fatty liver disease are both subtypes of a dangerous condition whereby a person’s liver is comprised of over 5-10% fat. While fatty liver disease is generally a reversible condition, if it is left unchecked, it can be fatal
in its later stages.
Symptoms of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
NAFLD can be asymptomatic initially, or it may cause such symptoms as: fatigue, weight loss or loss of appetite, nausea, weakness, confusion or poor concentration. It may also cause an enlarged liver. Eventually, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can lead to cirrhosis (irreversible scarring) of the liver. Symptoms of cirrhosis
of the liver include:
- Abdominal swelling
- An enlarged spleen
- Enlarged blood vessels under the skin
- Jaundice (yellowed skin)
- Reddened palms
What Causes Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?
While every case is different and the exact causes aren’t always pinpointed, some causes may include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Losing a large amount of weight too quickly
- Certain medications
- Autoimmune disease
- Certain viruses can contribute to fatty liver disease
- High triglyceride level in the blood or high cholesterol
- A chronically poor, or high fat diet may contribute to fatty liver disease
- Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)
- Insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes is highly associated with fatty liver disease)
- Those with diabetes, thyroid problems, polycystic ovarian syndrome or sleep apnea are at higher risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease than others.
- Rarely, pregnancy can cause fat to build up in the liver
Diagnosis and Treatment
Fatty liver disease is typically diagnosed when routine blood test screening of the liver (such as the ALT or GTT test) shows abnormal readings. It can also be diagnosed if the liver feels enlarged during a physical examination or ultrasound test. The doctor will likely order further tests to confirm his or her suspicion of a fatty liver. Treatment for fatty liver disease usually focuses more on lifestyle modification
and treating comorbid conditions such as hyperglycemia or high cholesterol. If the person has alcoholic fatty liver disease the primary objective is break the habit and have the patient quit drinking. If the patient is overweight, a healthier diet would be implemented and weight loss of 5-10% of the person’s body weight would be recommended.
Thank you for visiting EMC!