Every human being has a liver. It is a vital organ essential for survival. It is located at the upper right corner of your belly. It produces substances that help some of your food digest, and those needed by the body to build its immunity. It stores nutrients the body does not need at that time and breaks down others not needed by the body for proper excretion.
Like any other organ in the body, the liver can be diseased. This varies from one entity to the other, the cause of which varies in different age group. Picking diseases of the liver at the early stage might make the likelihood of reversal a possibility as some of these disease entities might not show symptom until it has gone to the end stage.
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What then is fatty liver?
Your liver has a normal amount of fat content. When the quantity of fat in the liver exceeds this normal range, the liver is said to be fatty. A lot of times, this is picked accidentally as it may show no symptoms or even present with non-specific symptoms like feeling of being unwell and loss of appetite.
Fatty liver in itself might be harmless. It becomes dangerous when it’s inflamed. The body’s defense system tends to curb this inflammation thereby leading to scar formation (fibrosis) in the liver. This fibrosis affect the function of the liver and can result to liver failure.
What are the causes of fatty liver?
The commonest cause of fatty liver still remains alcohol. There are some other non-alcoholic causes of fatty liver.
Alcoholic fatty liver disease
When you take excessive alcohol, it stores in your liver as fat. As said earlier, there is a percentage of fat in the liver that is normal. Excessive alcohol intake builds up more fat in the liver leading to fatty liver. Fatty liver on its own is not injurious and does not bring about symptoms. When the major part of the liver becomes replaced by fat, the liver tends to defend itself. This defense by the liver build up scar in the liver (called fibrosis). This fibrosis in return affect the function of the liver.
The beautiful thing about alcoholic liver is that if alcohol is stopped early before fat occupies the major part of the liver, it can be reversed. Even if you stop alcohol at that late stage, it will reduce the progression of the disease though it may not be reversed completely. Therefore, the only way out of alcoholic fatty liver disease is to stop alcohol intake.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Occasionally, fatty liver disease is seen in individual who has taken little or no alcohol in the past. The main cause of fatty liver in them is usually unknown although research has been able to link some likely factors that could have been responsible for this. This include:
- Obesity: people that are overweight or obese especially those whose fat deposition is majorly at the waist has been said to be at risk of fatty liver disease.
- Diabetes: fatty liver disease has been seen in people with type 2 diabetes. Although the exact way diabetes causes fatty liver is unknown, it has been linked to obesity and insulin resistance. This is because most people living with diabetes are also obese.
- Smoking: research has shown that fatty liver disease is related to smoking. This is not limited to smoking of cigarettes but also inhaling of smoke.
- High blood pressure: this seems to be related to diabetes, obesity and insulin resistance thereby creating an indirect link to fatty liver disease.
- High blood cholesterol: too much of cholesterol in the body will lead to accumulation of fat in the liver leading to fatty liver.
What are the symptoms of fatty liver?
Fatty liver itself usually does not show symptoms although some people may have general symptoms like feeling of being unwell, discomfort in their tommy. Symptoms are usually seen when scar (fibrosis) has been formed in the liver and its function impaired.
What complications can result from fatty liver?
Excessive accumulation of fat in the liver can lead to scarring which can subsequently result in liver cancer. People with this condition usually complain of weight loss, swelling and pain in the upper right corner of their tommy, swelling of the legs, yellowish discoloration of the eyes etc.
How to prevent fatty liver disease and its complications?
There are different levels of prevention. This include:
- Preventing fatty liver disease
- Preventing complications of fatty liver disease
- Preventing progression of complicated fatty liver disease.
Preventing fatty liver disease
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat healthy fat, low in Trans and saturated fat.
- Avoid intake of alcohol
- Engage in regular exercise
- Stop smoking
Preventing complications of fatty liver disease
- Stop alcohol intake. The liver can regenerate itself. Fatty liver picked early during checkup can reverse back to normal if you stop alcohol intake.
- Take your medications. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes or high cholesterol, take your medications to prevent fatty liver disease.
- Stop smoking.
Preventing progression of complicated liver disease
- Stop alcohol intake.
- Stop smoking.
- Take your medications.
- Follow your physician’s instruction.
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