What Is Fatty Liver Disease?
Fatty liver disease (steatosis) is a common condition caused by having too much fat build up in your liver. A healthy liver contains a small amount of fat. It becomes a problem when fat reaches 5% to 10% of your liver’s weight.
Fatty liver disease means you have extra fat in your liver. You might hear your doctor call it hepatic steatosis. Heavy drinking makes you more likely to get it. Over time, too much alcohol leads to a buildup of fat inside your liver cells. This makes it harder for your liver to work.
Who Gets Fatty Liver Disease?
You have a greater chance of developing fatty liver disease if you:
- Are Hispanic or Asian.
- Are a postmenopausal woman (a woman whose periods have stopped).
- Have obesity with a high level of belly fat.
- Have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol.
- Have obstructive sleep apnea (a blocked airway that causes breathing to stop and start during sleep).
What Are The Forms of Fatty Liver Disease?
There are two main forms of fatty liver disease:
- Alcoholic liver disease – Alcoholic fatty liver is the accumulation of fat in the liver as a result of heavy drinking. (Moderate drinking is defined as one drink a day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.)
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease – Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease occurs in people who aren’t heavy drinkers. The condition affects one in three adults and one in 10 children in the United States. Researchers haven’t found the exact cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Several factors, such as obesity and diabetes, can increase your risk.
What Causes Fatty Liver Disease?
Some people get fatty liver disease without having any pre-existing conditions. But these risk factors make you more likely to develop it:
- Being obese or overweight.
- Having Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance.
- Having metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels).
- Taking certain prescription medications.
Factors that increase the risk of fatty liver include:
- Are obese
- Are malnourished
- Have chronic viral hepatitis, especially hepatitis C
- Have genes that make you more likely to get it
- Age the older you are, the more likely it becomes.
What Are The Symptoms of Fatty Liver?
- Swollen belly
- Enlarged blood vessels underneath your skin
- Larger-than-normal breasts in men
- Red palms
- Skin and eyes that appear yellowish, due to a condition called jaundice
How Is Fatty Liver Disease Treated?
There’s no medication specifically for fatty liver disease. Instead, doctors focus on helping you control factors that contribute to the condition. They also recommend making lifestyle changes that can significantly improve your health. Treatment includes:
- Avoiding alcohol.
- Losing weight.
- Taking medications to control diabetes, cholesterol and triglycerides (fat in the blood).
- Taking vitamin E and thiazolidinediones
- Stay at a healthy weight. If you’re overweight or obese, lose weight gradually.
- Exercise regularly.
- Limit your alcohol consumption.
- Take medications as prescribed.
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