Fatty liver disease is a common condition in which too much fat accumulates in the liver. This can damage the liver and lead to serious health problems, such as cirrhosis and liver failure.
There are two main types of fatty liver disease: alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). AFLD is caused by excessive alcohol consumption, while NAFLD is caused by other factors, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol.
NAFLD is the most common type of fatty liver disease, affecting up to 25% of adults worldwide. It is more common in people who are overweight or obese, have type 2 diabetes, or have high cholesterol.
The following factors increase your risk of developing fatty liver disease:
- Obesity or overweight
- Type 2 diabetes
- High cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- Metabolic syndrome
- Insulin resistance
Certain medications, such as corticosteroids and chemotherapy drugs
Some genetic disorders
Most people with fatty liver disease do not have any symptoms. However, some people may experience fatigue, abdominal pain, and discomfort in the upper right abdomen.
If fatty liver disease progresses to cirrhosis, you may experience more severe symptoms, such as:
- Fluid retention in the abdomen and legs (ascites)
- Swollen blood vessels in the esophagus (esophageal varices)
- Confusion or mental changes (hepatic encephalopathy)
- Bleeding from the esophagus or varices
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
If your doctor suspects that you may have fatty liver disease, they may order a blood test to check your liver enzymes. They may also order an imaging test, such as an ultrasound or CT scan, to get a better look at your liver.
There is no specific medication for fatty liver disease. However, lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, exercise, and a healthy diet, can help to reduce liver fat and inflammation and reverse early liver damage.
If you have fatty liver disease, your doctor will likely recommend the following lifestyle changes:
Lose weight: Even a small amount of weight loss can help to improve your liver health.
Exercise regularly: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
Eat a healthy diet: Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit saturated and unhealthy fats, processed foods, and sugary drinks.
Avoid alcohol: Alcohol can damage the liver and make fatty liver disease worse.
If lifestyle changes are not enough to improve your liver health, your doctor may prescribe medications to manage conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.
The best way to prevent fatty liver disease is to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. This includes eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption.
Fatty liver disease is a serious condition that can lead to serious health problems. However, it is important to remember that fatty liver disease is often reversible with lifestyle changes. If you have fatty liver disease, talk to your doctor about the best ways to manage your condition and protect your liver health.