As the second-largest organ in your body, your liver carries out a number of important roles, including processing glucose, filtering blood, and bile production. Continuous damage to this vital organ may result in cirrhosis, which is where scar (fibrotic) tissue takes the place of healthy areas in your liver. A variety of factors and other liver conditions could lead to cirrhosis of the liver. One of these health concerns, known as fatty liver disease, affects approximately one out of every four people nationwide and is on the rise.
Around 20 – 40% of people in the United States are living with a fatty liver. If ever you or a member of your family may be at an elevated risk for fatty liver disease, seeking the proper medical care could get you on the right path to treat the damage and improve your liver health. A gastrointestinal (GI) doctor is trained to diagnose and treat fatty liver disease. Reach out to a gastroenterologist at GI Associates & Endoscopy Center in Jackson, MS to discover more about this serious yet preventable health condition.
What should I know about fatty liver?
If a fatty liver condition is present, it means that there is an excess buildup of fat in the liver. While having some fat in your liver might not be an issue, a fat composition of larger than 5% could end up causing inflammation and advanced scarring, which is known to the medical community as hepatic steatosis. The primary forms of fatty liver disease are called alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Common risk factors for fatty liver conditions
Excessive alcohol consumption could possibly create an overabundance of fat in the liver. When a buildup of fat causes fibrotic tissue or inflammation in this organ, it is commonly referred to as alcoholic steatohepatitis. The general risk factors for NAFLD among people who consume little to no alcohol are:
- Elevated cholesterol
- Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
- Being overweight
- Adult-onset diabetes
If this liver condition causes inflammation and damage to the tissues in the liver, it is termed NASH or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. This hepatic concern is forecasted to bypass the hepatitis C virus as the number one reason for liver transplants in the United States.
How can I identify the signs and symptoms of a fatty liver?
Typically, a person with a fatty liver condition is not likely to show any obvious signs or symptoms. In the instances where symptoms are present, however, it could point to considerable damage to the liver. Those signs could include:
- Dark-colored urine
- Queasy stomach
- Abdominal swelling and swollen ankles
- Feeling extremely tired
- A change in bowel movements
- Yellowing of the eyes or skin
In the event that you or someone you love develops these signs or symptoms, contact GI Associates & Endoscopy Center in Jackson, MS so that a GI doctor can identify your condition. When left untreated, a fatty liver condition might progress to cirrhosis and potentially transition into other health concerns, such as ascites (the accumulation of fluid in the belly), swollen blood vessels in the esophagus, a decrease in brain function due to liver disease (hepatic encephalopathy), cancer of the liver, and finally, liver failure that may require a liver transplant.
Can a fatty liver condition be treated?
The ideal way to address hepatic steatosis may include lifestyle changes. People who have AFLD are advised to refrain from drinking alcohol, which may prevent the further development of a fatty liver. Avoiding the consumption of alcohol is still recommended when the patient’s fatty liver disease is not alcohol-related.
If you have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, losing 10% of your total body mass index (BMI) might substantially decrease fat accumulation in your liver. Regular aerobic activities could also lessen this buildup. Additionally, sticking to a healthy diet could help control health issues that are precursors for a fatty liver condition (like high cholesterol and diabetes) and reduce the percentage of fat in the liver.
Find specialized care for fatty liver disease in Jackson, MS
A fatty liver condition may develop into damaging cirrhosis and liver failure in the absence of proper care. If you or your loved one develops symptoms of a fatty liver or any liver condition, please schedule a visit at GI Associates & Endoscopy Center in Jackson, MS to get information on the ways to treat this concern. GI Associates & Endoscopy Center is comprised of a qualified team of gastroenterologists who place the wellness and safety of their patients ahead of all else.