Fatty Liver Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
Fatty liver disease, also referred to as steatosis, is a condition caused by the accumulation of excess fat in the liver. The majority of patients with this condition have no symptoms, and it doesn’t result in serious problems for them. However, at times though, it can lead to liver damage. The good thing is you can prevent it from happening or even reverse fatty liver disease through lifestyle changes.
Functioning of the Liver
Your liver is a vital organ with several life-supporting functions. It is the second-largest organ in the body that helps in processing nutrients from foods and drinks. Moreover, it helps filter harmful substances from the blood.
If too much fat builds up in the liver, it can cause liver inflammation that can damage the liver, thereby developing liver scarring. In severe cases, liver scarring can lead to the failure of the liver.
Some of its key functions are as given below:
- It produces bile, thereby promoting proper digestion
- It makes the body proteins.
- The liver stores iron and converts nutrients into energy.
- It helps protect from harmful infections by making immune factors and removes bacteria and toxins from the blood.
- It promotes the process of blood clotting.
Stages of Fatty Liver Disease
Hepatic Steatosis progresses through four stages, namely:
- Simple Fatty Liver: Excess fat builds up in the liver in this stage.
- Steatohepatitis: Along with the storage of fat, there is inflammation in the liver.
- Fibrosis: Liver inflammation leads to scarring.
- Cirrhosis: This is the final stage in which the scarring of the liver becomes widespread.
Cirrhosis is a serious life-threatening condition that can lead to liver failure. Moreover, it may be irreversible. This is why it is necessary to prevent it from developing in the first place and visit the doctor at the early stages.
Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
When a person with alcoholism develops hepatic steatosis, it’s known as alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD). It includes both AFLD and alcoholic steatohepatitis.
When this condition develops in someone who doesn’t consume alcohol, it’s known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
If there’s no inflammation or other complications along with the accumulation of fat, the condition is referred to as simple non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
NAFLD includes simple non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), and acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP). According to a study by the World Journal of Gastroenterology, this condition affects up to 25 to 30% of individuals in Europe and the US.
Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (ASH)
This is a type of AFLD that happens when fat storage is accompanied by liver inflammation in people who consume moderate to high alcohol levels. Alcoholic steatohepatitis is also known as alcoholic hepatitis.
If left untreated, this condition may lead to liver scarring, which can ultimately result in liver failure. The first step to treating alcoholic fatty liver is to stop consuming alcohol. If you have alcoholism, your doctor may ask you to visit counseling sessions or recommend other treatments.
Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)
Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) is a type of NAFLD that occurs when fat storage in the liver is accompanied by inflammation. This condition mostly affects people who drink little to no alcohol. If left untreated, it can cause liver scarring, ultimately resulting in cirrhosis and liver failure.
Acute Fatty Liver of Pregnancy (AFLP)
This condition is rare but happens as a result of serious pregnancy complications. The exact cause of AFLP is unknown. When this condition develops, it usually happens in the third trimester of pregnancy and can pose serious health complications to the mother as well as the growing baby.
If you’re diagnosed with AFLP, your primary healthcare doctor will urge you to deliver your baby as soon as possible. You might be kept under intensive care for many days after childbirth. Nevertheless, your liver is expected to return to normal functioning with a few weeks of giving birth.
Who Are Affected By Fatty Liver Disease?
You are at more risk of developing the fatty liver disease if you:
- Suffer from obesity with a high level of belly fat
- Are Hispanic or Asian
- Have high blood pressure, cholesterol, or diabetes
- Have obstructive sleep apnea — a condition that causes breathing to stop and start during sleep because of a blocked airway
- Are a postmenopausal woman — someone whose periods have stopped.
Causes of Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty Liver Disease develops when your body builds up too much fat or doesn’t metabolize fat in the right manner. The accumulation of fat can be caused by different things. For example, consumption of too much alcohol can result in alcoholic fatty liver disease. For people who do not consume a lot of alcohol, the causes of fatty liver disease are not known.
Given below are the causes/risk factors that put you more at risk of developing it.
- High levels of fat, particularly triglycerides, in your blood
- High blood sugar
- Obesity or being overweight
- Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance
- Having metabolic syndrome
- Taking some prescription medications, including Valproic Acid (Depakote), Tamoxifen (Nolvadex), Methotrexate (Trexall), Amiodorone (Pacerone), or steroids
- Exposure to some toxins
- In some cases, although rare, pregnancy
If anyone in your family ever had fatty liver disease, you’re most likely to develop it yourself.
Signs and Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease
People with fatty liver disease often do not experience any symptoms until the disease progresses to liver cirrhosis. In case you have symptoms, they may include:
- Abdominal pain
- The feeling of fullness in the upper right side of the stomach
- Yellowish skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- Extreme tiredness or mental confusion
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Swollen legs and abdomen
Since this condition often has no symptoms, your doctor may be the first person to notice it. Elevated levels of liver enzymes that show up on a blood test for other conditions may give a hint to the doctor. Higher levels of liver enzymes are a sign of liver injury. To make a proper diagnosis, your doctor may ask you to do:
- FibroScan — a specialized ultrasound often used instead of liver biopsy to determine the amount of fat and scar tissue in the liver.
- Ultrasound or computed tomography (CT scan) to get a clear picture of the liver.
- Liver biopsy or tissue sample in the liver to determine how far the condition has advanced
Treatment for Fatty Liver Disease
Currently, there aren’t any medications to treat fatty liver disease. More research needs to be conducted to develop and test medications to treat this disease. In the majority of cases, lifestyle changes can help reverse the condition. Your doctor may recommend you to undergo these changes:
- Avoid the consumption of alcohol
- Dietary changes
- Losing weight
If you are experiencing serious complications, your doctor might advise you to undergo some treatments. For the treatment of cirrhosis, your doctor may prescribe:
- Lifestyle changes
Cirrhosis often leads to liver failure, wherein you might need a liver transplant.
Grocare India’s Natural Ayurvedic Medicine to Treat Fatty Liver Disease
Made with the goodness of pure and enriched herbs, including Embellia Ribes, Cyperus Rotundus, Alpinia Galangal, Opercuina Turpethum, Picrorhiza Kurroa, and Boerhavia Diffusa, the GC Supplement helps in boosting the immunity and rejuvenating liver cells to maintain a healthy well-being.
This tablet was designed in such a way that it strengthens immunity and restores normal functions of the liver. The ingredients of the tablet have been designed to work in harmony to incite the secretion of growth factors to help restore the liver cells. The constituents of this product are rich in anti-oxidants and also have anti-cholestatic and liver-protective properties, which together can help promote a healthy gallbladder and liver. Mentioned below are some of the important herbs that are included while formulating the product:
- Embellia Ribes: This herb is known for its antacid and anti-flatulent properties. The herb also helps in the purification of blood, thereby increasing blood circulation in the body.
- Cyperus Rotundus: This is a powerful herb that is used in the treatment of inflammation, nausea, and fever. Besides, it reduces body pain and helps in relaxing muscles.
- Alpinia Galangal: This herb possesses anti-inflammatory properties and thereby is beneficial in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and arthritis. Besides, it relaxes the stomach lining because of inflammation and relieves discomfort caused due to ulcers. It also contains lots of antioxidants to minimize the damage caused because of free radicals and other body impurities and toxins. This is a powerful herb that helps to improve blood circulation in the body.
- Opercuina Turpethum: This important ayurvedic herb possesses anti-anemic, anti-inflammatory, and purgative functions. Moreover, it helps in the treatment of gout and hemorrhoids.
- Picrorhiza Kurroa: This bio herb is known for its antibacterial, hepato-protective, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-cholestatic, and anti-allergic properties. It helps in restoring normal enzyme levels in the liver and regulating the immune system.
- Boerhavia Diffusa: Known for its hepato-protective, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic properties, Boerhavia Diffusa works as a comprehensive detoxifier and helps in restoring normal functions in the male reproductive system.
Proper Usage of This Medicine:
This product works best if taken twice daily after meals, or as recommended by the healthcare professional, or as indicated in the appropriate disease medication. GC tablets are used in the treatment of several conditions, including hepatic steatosis, the inflammation of the liver, gallbladder, kidney, and spleen, as well as blood purification.
If taken within the prescribed dosage, the GC tablets do not result in any known side-effects. The tablet can be taken safely by patients with diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, and pregnant women. The product is not known to cause any harm/adverse effect in any of the above cases. However, it may cause slight darkening of stool, which does not require any medical attention.