What is Fatty Infiltration in the Liver?
Fatty Liver is also known as Steatosis. It is the accumulation of the fat in the liver cells. The fats are stored by the liver in the cytoplasm of the cells. Under normal condition, only 5% of the triglycerides are found in the liver. When the concentration go beyond this limit, it becomes a problem. This is known as fatty infiltration of the liver. Patients do not tend to show any particular symptoms but it is caused due to various reasons.
Causes of Fatty Infiltration in the Liver
- Increase in the amount of fat transferred to the liver from different parts of the body is the main cause of the fatty infiltration.
- Intake of alcohol could also lead to fatty infiltration.
- Starving, obesity, malnutrition and diabetes can also cause fatty infiltration in the liver.
Symptoms of Fatty Infiltration Liver
Liver plays a vital role in the proper functioning of the body, and these functions get disturbed due to the accumulation of fat as in the condition of fatty liver. According to a study conducted by the journal called “Obesity”, above 10% of Americans are suffering from fatty liver. Usually the patients with fatty liver are asymptomatic but, there may be some visible symptoms depending on the stages of the disease.
- Patient with fatty liver can develop an enlarged liver (medically known as hepatomegaly) due to the extra fat accumulation.
- This may not be noticeable to you but, a doctor can identify it from a regular medical test.
- According to the American Liver Foundation, liver enlargement can be noticed while undergoing routine blood tests and X-rays.
Abdominal Pain, Fatigue and Weakness
- Persistent fatigue is the most common symptom of fatty liver.
- Patients usually report this after the liver enlargement has been noticed.
- Abdominal Pain and malaise are also common in fatty liver patients.
- This pain gets noticeable only after the patient gets diagnosed.
- Metabolic syndrome has many risk factors including high blood pressure, excessive abdominal fat and blood fat levels.
- Metabolic syndrome cannot be said to be a direct symptom of fatty liver but, it is strongly associated with fatty liver.
- Fatty liver patients are more likely to have it as a metabolic syndrome.
- Patients with arthritis and cancer may use drugs that result in fatty liver.
- Most serious symptom will be liver failure, in most cases it may require liver transplant.
Severe Fatty Liver Symptoms
- When the initial symptoms are unnoticed and left untreated, the liver tissues can become inflamed, resulting in scared tissues.
- Other symptoms include swelling, ascites (excess fluid between tissues in the abdomen), distended veins in the stomach and esophagus, menstrual problems and breast tissue swelling.
Different Stages of the Fatty Liver Syndrome
The fatty liver syndrome includes different liver conditions based on the severity of the disease.
This is the most common condition in which liver cells get accumulated with fat. This condition is asymptomatic and generally not associated with any other liver abnormalities. Usually, this condition is completely reversible.
Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)
Most common form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, it affects 2 to 5 percent of the Americans. NASH patients have liver inflammation due to fat accumulation and untreated NASH can lead to cirrhosis. If treated properly this condition is reversible.
If the inflammation is left untreated for years, it leads to cirrhosis. In this stage the liver gets scar tissues and severe inflammation. A liver with cirrhosis will encounter progressive and irreversible damage.
Diagnosis of Fatty Liver Disease Symptoms
- Ultrasound technique can show the accumulation of fat in the liver. Here, sound waves are directed towards an organ and the reflected waves are captured to obtain a picture of the organ.
- The extent of fat in liver and severity caused by inflammation can be precisely known through a biopsy. It involves examination of the liver tissue under the microscope. Possibilities of other complications are also revealed by this effective and widely accepted diagnostic technique.
- Fibrotest and steatotest are a couple of not so widely adopted techniques of diagnosis. Blood tests reveal the count of red blood cells, glucose levels, albumin protein levels and the state of the kidneys. Though liver plays a vital role in the production of essential proteins, kidneys separate these proteins from the waste products of the body before excretion.
Treatment of Fatty Infiltration in the Liver
Normally there will be some fat in the liver, but it should not be more than ten percent of the liver’s weight. With a little extra care fatty liver can be reversed which essentially includes changing lifestyle as far as diet is concerned and medical care based on the requirement.
- Immediately stop drinking alcohol, as it is the major cause of fatty liver.
- Avoid white bread, white rice, red meat, fat foods and soft drinks.
- Stop eating all processed and fried foods.
- Eat only whole meal and whole grain food and white meat like fish, chicken and turkey.
- Eat vegetables, green salads, fruits and low fat or fat free diary products.
- Being overweight and obesity are considered as serious concerns for getting fatty liver.
- If you are overweight, it is very important to loose weight steadily.
- If you are using any medication for obesity, be aware that few can further aggravate the effect of fatty liver.
- In severe conditions, the obese patient with fatty liver may need a weight loss surgery.
- A regular exercise regimen can reduce the effects and symptoms of fatty liver
- Practising yoga and meditation religiously can reverse the fatty liver in very less time.
- If the symptoms are severe then medication is very important along with prevention methods.
- Statins and prescription niacin can lower the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides caused by fatty liver.
- Person suffering from fatty infiltration should follow strict diet. He should be regular in taking his medications . He should go for a regular check-up. This will prevent his liver from getting damaged. Thus, resulting in reduction in the accumulation of fat in the liver progressively.
- The person’s cholesterol should be controlled. Doing exercise and lowering cholesterol will stabilize the fatty liver disease.
- Avoid drinking alcohol when you are suffering from fatty infiltration. Also do not use medications which can be harmful to your liver. You can ask your doctor to help you out.
- Intensive research have found out some medicines which can be taken such as metformin, pioglitazone and betaine. These medications are useful for the people who have fatty infiltration in the liver with /without diabetes.
To know more about acute fatty liver of pregnancy, read our article What do you mean by acute fatty liver of pregnancy?