Fatty Liver Disease

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Fatty Liver Disease

Overview

Why is the liver important?

The largest internal organ in the body, the liver is absolutely vital for survival. It has a lot of vital functions:

  • Produces bile, a mixture of chemicals, which aids digestion.
  • Helps break down food to turn it into energy.
  • Removes harmful substances from the blood, helping fight infection.
  • Makes chemicals that are important for blood clotting.
  • Stores iron, vitamins, and other essential substances.

 

What is Fatty Liver Disease?

Accumulation of extra fat in the liver is called Fatty Liver Disease. Excessive drinking of alcohol is considered to be the most common cause of fatty liver. However, the fatty liver also occurs in patients who are teetotalers or drink very little alcohol. This is called Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).

Who is likely to have Fatty Liver?

Fatty liver usually develops in people who are overweight, have diabetic diet , high cholesterol or high triglycerides. Poor eating habits with a diet rich in fats and sugars also cause fatty liver. Certain individuals develop a fatty liver even if they do not show any risk factors. It affects nearly 10 percent of the population.

Symptoms

It is important to diagnose the disease early when there are no symptoms. Generally, a liver function test (a blood test) shows an elevation of liver enzymes.

An ultrasound scan can reveal fat in the liver. Elastography can detect the severity of the disease. Occasionally, a liver biopsy may be required to diagnose and assess the severity of the disease.

What are the associations of Fatty Liver Disease?

People with Fatty Liver Disease are at higher risk of developing diabetes, diabetes insipidus, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They are also at higher risk of developing heart disease. It is important or these individuals to visit their doctor regularly so that appropriate tests can be done for early detection and treatment for these associated problems.

Risk factors

Fatty liver may cause liver inflammation or swelling. This may lead to cirrhosis, scarring of the liver, alcoholic liver disease over many years and may even lead to liver failure or liver cancer.

Many people between the age group of 40 and 60 years suffer from fatty liver and inflammation. One may not have any direct symptoms of fatty liver and hence it may not be detected.

Since people are getting overweight, diabetes is on the rise and oily food is being consumed more commonly, fatty liver disease has become a common cause of cirrhosis and liver failure.

Treatment

  • Exercise regularly to reduce weight is most important
  • Eat a healthy diet (low fat and sugar diet)
  • Maintain good control of diabetes
  • Maintain good control of blood pressure
  • Reduce high cholesterol levels
  • Avoid alcohol use 

Is there a specific medicine for Fatty Liver?

Unfortunately, there is no specific medicine that can reduce the amount of fat in the liver. Although a few physicians prescribe liver protective medicines and yet others prescribe vitamins, in scientific studies no particular medicine was found effective. If one’s doctor suspects that there may be too much inflammation in the liver, he may suggest a liver biopsy and then prescribe medicines.

Prevention

You have seen a liver specialist at least once in a year and get your blood tests done. During these visits, you should ensure that you have been checked for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

You should also ask your liver doctor whether you require a heart health check. It is also advisable to do a Fibroscan to assess the progression of liver disease.