Ways to tell if you have a fatty liver and what to do next

Fatty liver disease is a serious condition that MedicineNet says can lead to cirrhosis and its complications, including gastrointestinal bleeding and liver cancer, and liver failure. But the Mayo Clinic says a major problem with fatty liver disease is that there are almost no signs and symptoms, and they're often difficult to detect.
WebMD explains that everyone has some fat in their liver; that's normal. But if that fat is more than 5 to 10 percent of the organ's weight, you may have fatty liver disease, which can lead to serious health problems. There are basically two types of fatty liver disease: alcoholic liver disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. 
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Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD)
Alcoholic liver disease is caused by drinking lots of alcohol over time, and even short periods of heavy drinking, too. But ALD can also have a genetic component; WebMD says that genes passed down by your parents can play a part in ALD by affecting your chances of becoming an alcoholic and influencing how your body breaks down the alcohol you consume. Alcoholic liver disease can also be caused by hepatitis C, obesity and excessive iron in your body.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is much more elusive, and it's more difficult to pinpoint its cause, although WebMD says it does tend to run in families. NAFLD is also more likely to affect people who are middle-aged, overweight, or obese and those with high cholesterol and diabetes.
Other causes of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, according to WebMD, are:
- Medications
- Viral hepatitis
- Autoimmune or inherited liver disease
- Fast weight lost
- Malnutrition
Pregnancy is another important risk factor to note when considering NAFLD. WebMD says that while it's rare, fat can build up in the mother's liver during pregnancy -- which is very risky for both mom and baby. NAFLD in a pregnant woman can cause liver or kidney failure in mom and/or baby, and it can also cause serious infection or bleeding. It's still unclear in the medical community what causes this during pregnancy, but hormones may play a role. 
Symptoms
Fatty liver disease is serious but very hard to detect because the symptoms are generally common, including:
- Feeling tired
- Loss of weight/appetite
- Weakness
- Nausea
- Confusion
- Poor judgement, or trouble concentrating
More specific symptoms linked to fatty liver disease are: 
- Dark colored patches on skin on neck/under arms
- Pain in the center or upper part of your belly
Other symptoms are even harder to detect, like if your liver enlarges. If you have alcoholic liver disease, you may notice that symptoms get worse after a period of heavy drinking, according to WebMD. 
Diagnosis
According to the Mayo Clinic, the different ways to test for fatty liver disease include:
- Blood tests to check liver function
- Imaging procedures like an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI 
- Liver tissue testing by biopsy (using a needle to take a sample of the liver)
Treatment 
The Mayo Clinic explains that there's no standard treatment for NAFLD, but if you have ALD, you must stop drinking.
When it comes to NAFLD, the Mayo Clinic says doctors typically work to treat the risk factors that can cause liver disease. For example, if you're obese, your doctor might help you figure out a weight-loss plan. It's also a possibility that your doctor will have you get vaccinated for hepatitis A and hepatitis B to help protect you -- because they could cause further liver damage.
If diagnosed with fatty liver disease, WebMD also says it's important to:
- Eat a balanced and healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Limit foods that are high in carbohydrates 
- Strictly limit sugary drinks (such as sports drinks and juice)
For those diagnosed with ALD, WebMD notes the importance of stopping drinking and talking to your doctor about getting help and support to do that.
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Prevention
The Mayo Clinic explains that prevention methods for fatty liver disease are pretty much the same as treatment. If you're concerned you may be at high risk for fatty liver disease, it's important that you eat healthy, exercise and maintain a healthy weight, and if you have ALD, avoid drinking.
Resources WebMD and Mayo Clinic
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