Fatty Liver Disease and Cirrhosis: What is the Difference?


Having a healthy gastrointestinal system is necessary for maintaining good physical health. Among the most fundamental organs of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is the liver. Situated in close proximity to the stomach, the liver is responsible for various crucial functions, including digesting carbs, fats and proteins, supplying bile, acting as storage for glycogen and minerals, and excreting drugs and hormones, along with much more. When the liver becomes diseased, however, it can produce a damaging result on your total wellness and lead to conditions, like hepatic steatosis and cirrhosis. At Texas Digestive Disease Consultants, our highly competent GI doctors partner with patients throughout the DFW area to detect and treat these types of liver conditions.

How do you know if you have a fatty liver?

A fatty liver is a problem marked by the presence of adipocytes in the liver. This disease has two main categories: nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD). Although AFLD is a consequence of significant drinking, NAFLD can be caused by type 2 diabetes, obesity, or high cholesterol, and it is the most common form of liver disease in the United States. It can be tough to recognize whether you are experiencing a fatty liver condition since the problem usually does not show any notable indications. However, our Texas Digestive Disease Consultants team may diagnose the condition through a blood test, imaging tests, or sometimes a biopsy of the liver.

What is cirrhosis of the liver?

If you continue a way of life that produces injury to the liver, there is an increased likelihood that you could develop cirrhosis. The condition is characterized as the growth of fibrotic scarring on top of healthy tissue, which is replaced in the process. Cirrhosis is not a problem that develops right away; rather, it is generally an effect of years of damage to the liver, whether as a result of excessive alcohol consumption or from another health issue that may have gone undetected. Much like hepatic steatosis, the first phases of cirrhosis of the liver do not often cause obvious symptoms. As the scarring continues to build, however, you may notice one or more of the following cirrhosis symptoms:

  • Oedema
  • Darker than normal urine
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of energy
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Memory issues
  • Nausea
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Jaundice
  • Changes in bowel movements

These are only a handful of the effects that could transpire as the disease intensifies over the years.

Key differences between cirrhosis and fatty liver disease

Whereas hepatic steatosis and cirrhosis are both diseases of the liver, it's important to note a number of key differences.

  1. Fatty liver disease is defined by the existence of fat in the liver, while cirrhosis involves the development of scar tissue on top of healthy tissue.
  2. Both groups of hepatic steatosis (AFLD and NAFLD) might cause cirrhosis if not properly addressed.
  3. The two conditions may take a long while to progress, but cirrhosis presents a considerably more serious concern.
  4. Fatty liver disease is significantly more common.

In the event that you receive a diagnosis of one of these problems, it's recommended that you get care as soon as you can. Although both conditions can be chronic, having your symptoms treated and your health maintained is essential for your welfare.

Keep your liver in good health

Texas Digestive Disease Consultants is proud to employ an exceptionally qualified team of talented gastroenterologists who have a detailed understanding of the GI system and the life-giving components that make it up. We work diligently to understand your symptoms to the fullest degree and offer cutting-edge diagnostic technology to offer the most accurate diagnosis of your condition. To schedule a visit, get in touch with one of our practice locations throughout the DFW area.