Fatty liver disease is the term for a range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat in the liver. There are two main types of fatty liver disease – alcoholic and non-alcoholic. As the name suggests, the latter is caused by years of drinking too much alcohol.
At first, you may have no symptoms but as the condition progresses, you may become very unwell.
According to Bupa, worsening damage can cause hormonal changes, such as shrinking testicles.
The health body explains, testicles may get smaller in men and they may develop more breast tissue, and women may have irregular periods.
Other serious signs include:
- Itchy skin
- Yellowing of your skin or whites of your eyes (jaundice)
- Redness on the palms of your hands
- Hair loss
- Swelling in your abdomen (tummy) and legs, causing you to gain weight Unintentionally
- Bruising and bleeding easily
- Feelings of confusion and trouble concentrating and remembering things.
READ MORE: Fatty liver disease: Are your palms this colour? The lesser-known warning sign to spot
Other diagnostic procedures include:
- A fibroscan to find out if you have liver damage.
- Liver biopsy – this means having a small sample of liver tissue removed and examined under a microscope.
Am I at risk?
Experts don’t know exactly why some people accumulate fat in the liver while others do not.
However, fatty liver disease is linked to poor lifestyle factors.
According to the Mayo Clinic, fatty liver disease is linked to the following:
- Overweight or obesity
- Insulin resistance, in which your cells don’t take up sugar in response to the hormone insulin
- High blood sugar, indicating prediabetes or type 2 diabetes
- High levels of fats, particularly triglycerides, in the blood.
“These combined health problems appear to promote the deposit of fat in the liver,” explains the health body.
It adds: “For some people, this excess fat acts as a toxin to liver cells, causing liver inflammation and NASH, which may lead to a buildup of scar tissue in the liver.”
NASH is an aggressive form of fatty liver disease, which is marked by liver inflammation and may progress to advanced scarring (cirrhosis) and liver failure.
A wide range of conditions and diseases can also increase your risk of fatty liver disease.
How to treat fatty liver disease
The aim of treatment is to help your liver recover, and prevent any damage from getting worse.
According to Bupa, you should stop drinking alcohol if you have alcoholic fatty liver disease.
In addition to the direct harms caused by excessive alcohol consumption, drinking a lot of alcohol makes you gain weight.
As Bupa explains, being overweight can make alcohol-related liver disease worse, so it’s important to try to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Other treatments include:
- Liver transplant.