What is Fatty Liver Disease?
Fat can accumulate in the liver over time. Sometimes when it does, it causes injury to the healthy liver cells. This can cause inflammation, which can further lead to scarring and cirrhosis.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Fatty Liver Disease does not generally cause any symptoms until it is advanced to the point of cirrhosis.
Diagnosis of Fatty Liver Disease can be determined from elevated liver tests through blood work and observation of fatty liver on an ultrasound or CT scan, once other causes of liver disease (such as viral hepatitis) have been ruled out.
If the disease is advanced, signs of cirrhosis – such as jaundice and fluid retention – may also be seen.
A liver biopsy can be considered if the diagnosis is in doubt, or to assess the degree of liver damage.
NASH is most common in patients with diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and obesity.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is now the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the US.
People with what’s called Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) can end up with permanent liver damage, as it is one of the leading causes of cirrhosis.
Prevention & Treatment
Fatty Liver Disease appears to result from a metabolic problem. Risk factors include diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and obesity.
Treatment of Fatty Liver Disease can include a variety of methods. Both a low fat/high protein/low carbohydrate diet modification and weight loss via diet or bariatric surgery (lap band or gastric bypass) have been shown to improve, and even reverse, the condition. Alcohol should also be avoided, while concurrently treating those factors which may be contributing to it – controlling the diabetes, blood pressure or cholesterol. Antioxidants, such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E, have been demonstrated in some studies to possibly reduce fatty infiltration in the liver and improve liver tests. Also drugs that reduce insulin resistance (like Metformin) may have an effect as well. Finally, liver transplant can be considered in select patients whose disease has resulted in cirrhosis. The most important treatment of NASH is weight loss. A low fat/high protein/low fat diet can be helpful. A structured weight loss program, such as Healthier You, may be of some help in patients who have difficulty sustaining weight loss. Surgical options, such as a gastric sleeve or gastric bypass, have also been shown to be effective.