What is Fatty Liver Disease?

Fatty Liver

, also known as

Fatty Liver Disease (FLD)

, is a condition where abnormal deposits of fat are found on the liver. It is a condition where bag like structures enclosed by a sheath like membrane (vacuoles) gets stored with fats in the liver cells. The mechanism through which this happens is called Steatosis which is nothing but lipids and fats getting accumulated abnormally inside the liver cells.

This ailment affects 33% of European Americans, 45% Hispanic Americans and 24% of African Americans.

In the US, FLD is the most common cause of Liver Function Test.

Fatty Liver Disease can be of two types:

Alcoholic Liver Disease leading to fat accumulation on the liver

– It is a common side effect of alcohol abuse. Consistent accumulation of fats could lead to inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), in this case, called Steatohepatitis.

Non-alcoholic FLD (NAFLD)

– This could be caused by a lot of reasons which are as follows:

Metabolic reason

  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Dyslipidemia (abnormal levels of lipid/fat being present in blood)
  • Glycogen Storage Disease (defects in breaking down glycogen in muscles, liver and other organs)

Nutritional Reasons

  • Malnutrition
  • Obesity
  • Severe weight loss
  • Total Parenteral nutrition (feeding through a tube without going through a normal digestive cycle)
  • Gastric bypass
  • Bacterial overgrowth

Drugs and Toxins

– Certain drugs and toxins Amiodarone, methotrexate , expired Tetracycline as well as environmental toxins could lead to this condition.

Other reasons could be

side effects of having Hepatitis C , Inflammatory Bowel Disease or HIV


Symptoms of FLD

  • Chronic pain in the abdomen especially in the right side
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Elevated liver enzymes
  • Vomiting tendency
  • Weight loss
  • Yellowing of skin color and eyes
  • Abnormally dark urine

Diagnosis of FLD

  • Physical exam could be done to detect the generally enlarged liver.
  • A liver function test is advised. Generally, liver enzymes are found elevated in this condition.
  • Procedures like Ultrasound, CT (computed Topography) scan and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) can detect the presence of fats on the liver.

Treatment of Fatty Liver Disease</strong

  • Most of the time treating the underlying cause of this disease completely cures it
  • A lot of lifestyle recommendations are generally given.
  • Coming out of alcohol addiction is advised as the first step in case the disease is caused by alcohol abuse.
  • Other strategies would be a fat restricted diet and regular exercise to bring down the weight.
  • In diabetic patients, effective management of insulin intolerance can improve this condition.

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