As the second-largest organ in your body, the liver carries out a multitude of important functions, such as processing glucose, filtering blood, and producing bile. Long-term damage to the liver could end up causing cirrhosis, a condition where scar tissue replaces healthy areas of tissue in the organ. A variety of conditions and liver concerns may result in cirrhosis (severe scarring) of the liver. As a common health issue, fatty liver disease impacts nearly one in four people nationwide and is increasing in prevalence.
Around 20 – 40% of people in the United States are living with a fatty liver condition. If you or a loved one is at risk for developing fatty liver disease, a proper diagnosis can help get you on the right path to treat the harm caused to the liver. A gastroenterology specialist can offer expert care for fatty liver disease. Get in touch with a digestive health physician at Metropolitan Gastroenterology Associates in New Orleans, LA to find out more about this common but often avoidable problem.
What are the types of fatty liver conditions?
The term “fatty liver” means that there is an accumulation of fat in the liver. While some fat in the liver may not be a cause for concern, a fat constitution of more than 5% could result in advanced scarring and liver inflammation, which is medically known as hepatic steatosis. The main variations of fatty liver disease are referred to as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD).
Common causes of fat in the liver
The overconsumption of alcohol could result in an overabundance of fat in the liver. In instances where this condition ends up causing fibrotic tissue or inflammation, it’s generally diagnosed as alcoholic steatohepatitis. Among individuals who ingest very little to zero amounts of alcohol, the underlying health factors for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease are comprised of:
- Adult-onset diabetes
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
When this liver condition advances to the point of causing inflammation and injury to the cells in the liver, it’s diagnosed as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH. This liver condition will likely bypass hepatitis C as the leading reason behind liver transplant procedures among patients in the United States.
How can I identify the signs and symptoms of fatty liver disease?
In many cases, a person with a fatty liver condition isn’t likely to show any obvious symptoms. If and when symptoms and signs are present, however, it could mean that there is considerable liver damage. Such signs could include:
- Swelling in the abdomen and ankles
- Dark urine
- Bowel movement changes
- Feeling nauseous
If ever you or a loved one is having any of these health concerns, contact Metropolitan Gastroenterology Associates in New Orleans, LA and have a GI specialist evaluate the condition. When left untreated, fatty liver disease could transition into cirrhosis, which could result in other health concerns, such as ascites (the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal area), the swelling of blood vessels in the esophagus, a decrease in brain function due to liver disease (hepatic encephalopathy), liver cancer, and ultimately, the need for liver transplant surgery.
How is hepatic steatosis treated?
Generally, the recommended ways to address fatty liver disease may include improvements in dietary and exercise habits. People with alcoholic fatty liver disease should abstain from further alcohol consumption, which could prevent the worsening of this condition. Avoiding alcoholic beverages is even advised when fatty liver disease doesn’t stem from alcohol use. If you have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, losing 10% of your overall body weight might substantially improve the fat level in your liver. Performing routine cardio-based activities is also known to minimize the accumulation of fat in the liver. Furthermore, consuming a healthy dietary intake can help manage conditions that are precursors for fatty liver disease, such as diabetes and high cholesterol, and decrease the overall amount of fat in the liver.
Have a fatty liver condition? Visit a GI specialist in New Orleans, LA
A fatty liver could advance to life-threatening fibrotic tissue and the chance of liver failure without qualified treatment. If you or a family member is at risk for fatty liver disease, please reach out to Metropolitan Gastroenterology Associates in New Orleans, LA to get information on treating and managing this medical issue. Metropolitan Gastroenterology Associates employs a qualified team of GI specialists who prioritize the health, needs, and safety of their patients above all else.