How Serious Is Fatty Liver?


Your liver is the second largest organ in your body and provides a multitude of essential functions, such as processing glucose, filtering blood, and bile production. Long-term damage to this organ might cause cirrhosis of the liver, which is where scar (fibrotic) tissue replaces healthy tissue. A range of conditions and liver problems may cause cirrhosis, or severe scarring, of the liver. One such disease, referred to as fatty liver disease, impacts nearly one in four people nationwide and is increasing within the population.

Around 20 – 40% of patients in the U.S. have excess fat in the liver. If you or a member of your family might be at an increased risk for developing fatty liver disease, a professional evaluation can help set you on the path to decreasing the damage caused to the liver. A gastroenterology specialist is trained to diagnose and treat fatty liver disease. Visit a digestive health provider at Texas Digestive Disease Consultants in DFW to further explore this dangerous yet often avoidable health problem.

What are the primary types of fatty liver disease?

Having a fatty liver condition indicates that there is too much fat in the liver. While some fat in the liver may be of no concern, fat formation of more than 5% may cause liver cirrhosis and inflammation, which is known to the medical community as hepatic steatosis. The two main variations of fatty liver disease include alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Common risk factors for fatty liver

Consuming an excessive amount of alcohol can create an oversupply of fat in the liver. In instances where this condition causes inflammation or scar tissue, it's typically referred to as alcoholic steatohepatitis. When individuals consume only minor amounts of alcohol, the risk factors for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease include:

  • Diabetes (type 2)

  • High cholesterol

  • Obesity

  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)

When nonalcoholic fatty liver disease advances to the point of causing inflammation and injury to the tissues in the liver, it is called NASH or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. This liver condition is expected to bypass the hepatitis C virus as the primary need for liver transplant procedures in the United States.

How can I identify the indications of a fatty liver condition?

A patient who is affected by excess fat in the liver is likely to present no initial indications. Instances where signs and symptoms have developed, however, could potentially indicate that significant hepatic injury has occurred. These signs and symptoms often include:

  • Swollen ankles and abdominal swelling

  • A change in bowel habits

  • Dark urine

  • Yellowing of the eyes or skin

  • Upset stomach

  • Fatigue

In the event that you or a family member develops these health issues, get in touch with Texas Digestive Disease Consultants in DFW so that a gastroenterologist can identify the condition. Without proper care, fatty liver disease could advance to cirrhosis, which can manifest with other health issues, such as ascites (the buildup of fluid in the abdomen), the swelling of veins in the esophagus, a decrease in brain function due to liver disease (hepatic encephalopathy), liver cancer, and liver failure.

Can hepatic steatosis be treated?

Generally, the ideal treatments for fatty liver disease involve a proper diet and exercise. Patients who are diagnosed with AFLD should avoid drinking alcohol, which can halt the advancement of fatty liver disease. The avoidance of alcoholic drinks is still recommended if the patient’s fatty liver condition is not alcohol-related. For NAFLD, decreasing 10% of your full body mass may markedly improve the fat buildup in the liver. Engaging in heart-pumping exercises can also decrease the accumulation of fat in the organ. A healthy diet might both manage conditions that are precursors for hepatic steatosis, like diabetes and high cholesterol, and lower the fat level in the liver.

Receive treatment for fatty liver disease in DFW

A fatty liver condition can advance to damaging cirrhosis and the risk of liver failure without expert treatment. In the event that you or a loved one may have fat in the liver, please reach out to Texas Digestive Disease Consultants in DFW for more on how to prevent this medical issue. Texas Digestive Disease Consultants is comprised of a group of GI experts who put the wellness and safety of their patients above all else.