What Are the Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease?

As the second-largest organ in your body, the liver serves a number of critical functions, including the filtration of blood, production of bile, and processing of glucose. Sustained damage to the liver might lead to hepatic cirrhosis, which is where scar tissue takes the place of healthy tissue in the liver. Several health issues and liver problems have been known to cause cirrhosis, or severe tissue scarring, of the liver. A common condition, referred to as fatty liver disease, affects nearly one out of every four Americans and is on the rise.

About 20 – 40% of Americans have a fatty liver condition. If ever you or someone you love might be at an elevated risk for developing fatty liver disease, a diagnosis could help set you on the path to reverse the damage caused to the liver. The gastroenterology specialists at Hinsdale Gastroenterology Associates routinely diagnose and treat fatty liver disease. Schedule an appointment with one of our Hinsdale, IL gastrointestinal (GI) doctors to further explore this serious but often avoidable health problem.

What are the types of fatty liver?

If a fatty liver condition is present, it indicates that there is an excess accumulation of fat in the liver. Even though a minor amount of fat in the liver may be of no concern, a fat constitution of larger than 5% could lead to liver cirrhosis and inflammation, which is medically known as hepatic steatosis. The two primary variations of fatty liver disease are alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Common risk factors for NAFLD

Drinking alcohol in excess can lead to an oversupply of fat in the liver. In instances where this buildup of fat produces scarring or inflammation, it is called alcoholic steatohepatitis. When people drink zero to minor amounts of alcohol, the risk factors for NAFLD include:

  • Being overweight
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Elevated cholesterol 
  • Type 2 diabetes

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease that results in swelling and damage to the liver is referred to as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). This liver condition is on course to overtake the hepatitis C virus as the leading need for liver transplants among patients in the United States.

How can I identify the symptoms of a fatty liver?

Often, a patient who is affected by a fatty liver condition is not likely to show any noticeable symptoms or signs, especially at first. If symptoms are experienced, however, it could mean that there is considerable damage to the liver. Those indications can include:

  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • A change in bowel movements
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal swelling and swollen ankles
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Dark urine

Without proper care, a fatty liver condition in Hinsdale, IL patients could develop into cirrhosis, which can lead to complications, like ascites (fluid buildup in the abdominal area), the swelling of blood vessels in the esophagus, hepatic encephalopathy (impaired brain function resulting from liver disease), cancer of the liver, and liver failure. In the event that you or a family member is noticing these health issues, contact Hinsdale Gastroenterology Associates and have a gastroenterologist can evaluate the condition. 

Can a fatty liver condition be treated?

Generally, the most effective methods of managing hepatic steatosis commonly involve lifestyle changes. Those who are diagnosed with alcoholic fatty liver disease should avoid consuming alcohol, which could halt the advancement of a fatty liver condition. Avoiding alcoholic beverages is also advised when the patient’s fatty liver condition does not stem from alcohol use. For patients having nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, decreasing body weight by at least 10% could substantially reduce liver fat accumulation. Consistent heart-healthy exercise may also minimize fat in the organ. Adhering to a healthy dietary intake can both manage conditions that are risk factors for a fatty liver, such as elevated cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, and lower the amount of fat in the liver.

Get specialized care for fatty liver disease in Hinsdale, IL

Fat in the liver might progress to life-threatening cirrhosis and the chance of liver failure in the absence of qualified care. In the event that you or your family member may have fatty liver disease, set up an appointment at Hinsdale Gastroenterology Associates to get information on the methods used to manage and treat this concern. Our Hinsdale, IL team is made up of qualified gastroenterologists who prioritize the health and wellness of their patients ahead of all else.