A World Liver Day awareness initiative
Preventing Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver, or steatosis, is a term that describes the buildup of fat in the liver. While it’s normal to have some fat in your liver, more than 5 to 10 percent of fat in one’s liver indicates fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease is found in up to 30% of population, up to 60% in patients who are at risk for heart disease and in up to 90% of obese persons. Fatty liver is a reversible condition that can be resolved with changed behaviors. It often has no symptoms and typically does not cause permanent damage.
The liver is the second largest organ in the body. The liver’s function is to process everything we eat or drink and filter any harmful substances from the blood. This process is interrupted if too much fat is in the liver. The liver commonly repairs itself by rebuilding new liver cells when the old ones are damaged. When there’s repeated damage to the liver, permanent scarring takes place. This is called cirrhosis.
The most common cause of fatty liver is alcoholism and heavy drinking. Besides alcoholism, other common causes of fatty liver include obesity, hyperlipidemia, or high levels of fats in the blood of diabetes, genetic inheritance, rapid weight loss and side effect of certain medications, including aspirin, steroids, tamoxifen, and tetracycline.
There are different types of fatty liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFDL) caused when the liver has difficulty breaking down fats, which causes a buildup in the liver tissue. Alcoholic fatty liver is the earliest stage of alcohol-related liver disease. NAFLD is subdivided into: Nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) or simple fatty liver with no liver inflammation and Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) or fatty liver with liver inflammation. A rare but life-threarning condition, fatty liver disease can also develop as a complication of pregnancy in a few women.
Speaking about the same, Dr SS Agarwal – National President IMA & Padma Shri Awardee Dr KK Aggarwal – Honorary Secretary General IMA in a joint statement said, “Fatty liver can develop within hours after a single large binge. Binge alcohol means consuming 150 ml in one hour or more than 160 ml inn one day. Many drugs, NSAIDs, paracetamol, anti-diabetics, anti-epileptic drugs, Anti TB drugs can also raise liver enzymes and so can several herbs. Preventive health awareness must be raised to avoid future complications. Lifestyle modifications are key.”
If your liver is inflamed, your doctor can detect it by examining your abdomen. Ultrasounds, blood tests and a liver biopsy are other tests which are often required to diagnose the condition.
There aren’t any specific medications or surgery to treat fatty liver. Instead, lifestyle modifications are recommended in most cases including limiting or avoiding the consumption of alcoholic beverages, managing one’s cholesterol, weight management and controlling diabetes.