What is Fatty liver disease?
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) serves as a comprehensive term encompassing various liver conditions that impact individuals who have minimal to no alcohol consumption. As the name suggests, the primary hallmark of NAFLD is an excessive accumulation of fat within liver cells.
The prevalence of NAFLD is on the rise globally, particularly in Western countries. Within the United States, it stands as the most prevalent type of persistent liver ailment, affecting approximately a quarter of the populace.
Certain individuals experiencing NAFLD may develop a more aggressive variant known as Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH). This form of fatty liver disease is characterized by liver inflammation and possesses the potential to advance into advanced scarring (cirrhosis) and liver failure. The extent of damage is comparable to the harm induced by heavy alcohol consumption.
Causes of fatty liver disease
While some individuals acquire fatty liver disease without any pre-existing health conditions, certain risk factors elevate the likelihood of its development:
Excess Weight or Obesity:
Being overweight or obese increases the susceptibility to fatty liver disease.
Type 2 Diabetes or Insulin Resistance:
The presence of Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance raises the risk of developing the condition.
Factors like insulin resistance, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and increased triglyceride levels contribute to metabolic syndrome, which in turn heightens the risk of fatty liver disease.
Use of Specific Prescription Medications:
Certain prescription medications have been linked to an increased risk of fatty liver disease.
Symptoms of fatty liver disease
Fatty liver disease frequently manifests no symptoms until it advances to the cirrhotic stage. In cases where symptoms do arise, they might encompass:
Upper Abdominal Discomfort:
Abdominal pain or a sensation of fullness in the upper right section of the abdomen (belly).
Nausea, diminished appetite, or unexplained weight loss.
Yellowing of the skin and the eyes (jaundice).
Swelling in the abdomen and legs (edema) due to fluid retention.
Persistent Fatigue or Cognitive Impairment:
Profound tiredness or mental confusion.
Risk factors of fatty liver disease
Numerous diseases and conditions have the potential to increase the risk of NAFLD, encompassing:
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Elevated blood triglyceride levels
- Presence of metabolic syndrome
- Obesity, especially with abdominal fat accumulation
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Sleep apnea
- Type 2 diabetes
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Hypopituitarism (underactive pituitary gland)
Complications of fatty liver disease
The primary complication arising from NAFLD is cirrhosis, an advanced stage characterized by significant liver scarring. Cirrhosis emerges as a response to liver damage, including the inflammation seen in NAFLD. In its attempt to counter inflammation, the liver generates areas of scar tissue (fibrosis). Over time, ongoing inflammation leads to the progressive spread of fibrosis within the liver's tissue.
Without intervention, cirrhosis can result in:
Accumulation of fluid within the abdominal cavity.
Veins in the oesophagus that are enlarged and can rupture, causing bleeding.
Symptoms like confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech due to impaired brain function.
Risk of developing liver cancer is increased.
End-Stage Liver Failure:
Complete cessation of liver function.
Prevention of fatty liver disease
Optimal prevention of fatty liver disease involves adhering to practices that support overall well-being:
Adopt a Nutritious Diet:
Opt for a nourishing plant-based diet abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beneficial fats.
Sustain a Healthy Weight:
For those carrying excess weight, decrease daily calorie intake and enhance physical activity. If your weight is already in a healthy range, uphold it by making wise dietary choices and engaging in regular exercise.
Regular Physical Activity:
Incorporate exercise into most days of the week. Seek approval from your physician, especially if you're not accustomed to consistent physical activity.
Dos and Don’ts
|Adopt a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
|Avoid sugary foods and beverages which can contribute to fat accumulation.
|Engage in regular physical activity to improve liver function and reduce fat.
|Refrain from consuming excessive amounts of saturated and trans fats.
|Monitor and maintain a healthy weight. Even losing a small percentage can reduce liver fat.
|Do not drink alcohol excessively, even though it's "nonalcoholic" fatty liver disease.
|Manage and monitor blood sugar levels, especially if diabetic.
|Avoid crash diets or rapid weight loss which can stress the liver.
|Keep cholesterol and triglycerides in check through diet and medications as prescribed.
|Stay away from over-the-counter painkillers and certain other medications that can strain the liver.
|Consume healthy fats, like those found in fish, nuts, and olive oil.
|Don't consume too many refined carbohydrates, like white bread and pastries.
|Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water daily.
|Avoid or limit red meat intake, which can be harder to process for some with liver issues.
|Regularly consult with a healthcare professional for liver health check-ups and advice.
|Do not ignore potential symptoms of liver disease, such as fatigue or abdominal discomfort
Treatment for fatty liver at Medicover
At Medicover Hospitals, the treatment for Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is comprehensive and tailored to each patient's unique condition and needs. The hospital's approach focuses on a combination of medical expertise, advanced diagnostics, and patient-centric care to effectively manage and treat NAFLD.