The liver is the second largest and heaviest organ in our body. It helps in the processing of nutrients from food and drinks. The liver also helps in the filtration of toxins. Fatty liver is a medical condition in which fat deposits in the liver. The condition is also known as hepatic steatosis. Small amounts of fat in the liver is normal, but too much fat can become a health problem.
Too much fat build-up can cause liver inflammation, which can harm the liver and create scarring. In severe cases, it may lead to liver failure.
There are two types of fatty liver diseases:
NAFLD occurs when fat builds up in the liver that is not related to too much alcohol use. There are two main types:
Simple fatty liver, in which an individual has fat in the liver, but there is no or very little inflammation or liver cell damage. A simple fatty liver typically does not get serious enough to cause liver damage or further complications.
Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is when there is inflammation and the liver cells are damaged, as well as fat in the liver. Inflammation and liver cell damage can create complications like fibrosis or scarring of the liver. NASH may also lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Consuming a lot of alcohol can cause liver damage. This may lead to alcoholic fatty liver disease. The liver can break down most of the alcohol, so it can be removed from the body. But the process of breaking it down can generate toxic substances. These toxic substances can damage liver cells and encourage inflammation and weaken the body’s natural defenses mechanism. The more alcohol one drinks, the more damage they do to the liver. Alcoholic fatty liver disease is the beginning stage of alcohol-related liver disease. The next stages are alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.
ASH (Alcoholic Steatohepatitis) – ASH is a type of AFLD.
It occurs when there is excessive fat built-up in the liver and accompanied by liver inflammation. This is also known as alcoholic hepatitis.
If a person is having excess fat in the liver, the liver is inflamed, and drinks a lot of alcohol, the doctor may diagnose the person with ASH.
If it is not appropriately controlled, ASH can cause scarring of the liver. Severe liver scarring is known as cirrhosis. Later it can lead to liver failure.
In various cases, fatty liver is usually asymptomatic. People may experience discomfort or pain in the upper side of the abdominal region. Some people with fatty liver disease develop complications, such as liver scarring or liver fibrosis. If someone develops severe liver fibrosis, then it is known as cirrhosis.
Fatty liver disease is caused when the body produces too much fat or does not metabolize fat efficiently. Excessive fat gets stored in the liver cells, where it accumulates and causes fatty liver disease. People tend to develop fatty liver if they have few other conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, or high triglycerides.
Alcohol abuse, rapid weight loss, and malnutrition may also lead to fatty liver disease. However, some people may develop a fatty liver even if they have none of these conditions.
Drinking a high amount of alcohol can increase the risk of developing fatty liver disease. Other risk factors include:
To diagnose fatty liver disease, a doctor will ask for patient medical history, physical examination, and some more tests.
This may include palpation or pressing of the abdominal region by the doctors to analyse liver inflammation. They might feel liver enlargement by palpation.
In many cases, fatty liver disease is detected after blood tests. Blood tests may show elevated liver enzymes. For example, the doctor may order the alanine aminotransferase test (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase test (AST) to evaluate liver enzymes. These tests might be recommended if anyone acquires signs or symptoms of liver disease, or it can be a part of a routine inspection. Elevated liver enzymes can be a sign of liver inflammation.
A doctor may use several imaging tests to check for excess fat and other problems with the liver. Some recommended tests to diagnose fatty liver are
Liver biopsy is a process in which a needle is inserted into the liver, and a small amount of tissue is collected. The tissue is then examined in the laboratory to diagnose various liver diseases.
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