Factors that Lead to Fatty Liver Disease
The liver carries out several critical functions, like producing bile, filtering blood, and processing glucose, and is the second-largest organ in the body. Ongoing damage to the liver can result in cirrhosis of the liver, which is where scar tissue takes over healthy areas of tissue. Several medical conditions and liver diseases have been known to lead to cirrhosis of the liver. One such condition, called fatty liver disease, is a health concern for approximately 25 percent of people nationwide and is on the rise.
Between 20 – 40% of people in the United States are living with a fatty liver condition. If ever you or a family member could be at an elevated risk for having fatty liver disease, the proper medical care could help set you on the path to treating this unhealthy buildup of fat. The gastroenterologists at Arizona Digestive Health are trained to diagnose and treat fatty liver disease. Reach out to a digestive health specialist at one of our practices throughout the Phoenix, AZ area to discover more about this common but preventable issue.
What are the primary types of fatty liver disease?
When fatty liver disease is present, it means that there is an accumulation of fat in the liver. Although a small amount of fat in your liver okay, a fat constitution in excess of 5% may end up causing inflammation and cirrhosis, which is known to the medical community as hepatic steatosis. The two primary types of fatty liver disease are called AFLD (alcoholic fatty liver disease) and NAFLD (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease).
Common causes of fat in the liver
Excessive alcohol consumption can often cause too much fat to accumulate in the liver. When this condition leads to fibrotic tissue or inflammation, it is typically called alcoholic steatohepatitis. For Phoenix, AZ patients who consume little to no alcohol, the common underlying health factors for NAFLD are comprised of:
- Adult-onset diabetes
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- High cholesterol
If a fatty liver condition advances to the point of causing inflammation and injury to the tissues in the liver, it is diagnosed as NASH or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis will likely overtake the hepatitis C virus as the primary reason for liver transplant procedures among U.S. citizens.
How can I identify the symptoms of hepatic steatosis?
A person who is affected by fatty liver disease is unlikely to present any noticeable symptoms or signs at first. If and when indications of the condition do show up, however, they could indicate that considerable damage to the liver has occurred. These symptoms could include:
- A change in bowel habits
- Swollen abdomen and ankles
- Urine dark in color
- Feeling extremely tired
If you or someone you love is noticing such symptoms, contact Arizona Digestive Health and have a gastrointestinal specialist assess the condition. Without professional care, a fatty liver condition may progress to cirrhosis and possibly result in other problems, including ascites (fluid accumulation in the belly), swollen veins in the esophagus, hepatic encephalopathy (a decline in brain function due to liver disease), liver cancer, and the need for liver transplant surgery.
Can fatty liver disease be treated?
Generally, the recommended ways to treat fatty liver disease often include lifestyle changes. Individuals who have AFLD should refrain from drinking alcohol, which can stop the advancement of a fatty liver condition. Avoiding the consumption of alcoholic drinks is also recommended if a person’s fatty liver condition is not related to alcohol use. If you have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, losing 10% of your entire body mass index (BMI) may considerably reduce the fat accumulation in your liver. Keeping up with heart-healthy exercises can often decrease the amount of fat in the liver as well. Adhering to a healthy diet may also help to better manage risk factors of fatty liver disease, including elevated cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, and lessen the overall fat content in the liver.
Receive specialized care for a fatty liver condition in Phoenix, AZ
Excess fat in the liver might progress to damaging fibrotic tissue and liver failure without professional treatment. In the event that you or your loved one is at risk for hepatic steatosis, please reach out to Arizona Digestive Health in Phoenix, AZ to learn more about the methods used to address this medical issue. Arizona Digestive Health employs a qualified team of GI doctors that place the well-being and safety of their patients first.