Learn What Fatty Liver Is

Fatty Liver or steatosis is thought to be the initial and simplest stage of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD. Basically, it is the accumulation of fat (triglyceride) in liver cells with no liver inflammation (hepatitis) and scarring (fibrosis).

This disease is called nonalcoholic fatty liver if it is not caused by excessive alcohol usage, and there is no liver inflammation or scarring. It is not a normal liver condition, but is not considered serious as long as it does not develop into inflammation or liver damage.

NAFLD is now the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the US.

Isolated Fatty Liver

You may have been told or have heard that an Isolated Fatty Liver never progresses to more serious forms of this liver disease, and is considered benign. Research out of France, however, questions this assumption. The French researchers state that an Isolated Fatty Liver is not necessarily benign, and can progress to more serious forms of NAFLD.

So you need to take this disease seriously, even if you’ve been told you have the isolated version of NAFLD. You still need to consider adopting a healthier diet and exercise program to prevent permanent damage to your liver.

Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis or NASH

A fraction of people who have the simplest form of NAFLD may develop NASH, which is the next and more serious stage of NAFLD. NASH involves both the accumulation of fat in the liver cells as well as liver inflammation or hepatitis.

This stage of NAFLD can lead to dangerous liver complications. NASH can lead to liver scarring or fibrosis, and eventually to irreversible scarring known as cirrhosis. Cirrhosis caused by NASH is the last and most severe stage of NAFLD.

Insulin Resistance, Obesity and Genetics

NAFLD is associated with insulin resistance and obesity. Being overweight is a risk factor for NAFLD.

However, studies reported by researchers at UC San Diego, state that NAFLD is not simply about weight. It tends to occur in families and is likely genetic in nature. So, individuals who are overweight and have a genetic predisposition or family history of NAFLD are most at risk to develop NAFLD.

The disease is reversible with lifestyle changes if it is caught in its early stages and before cirrhosis occurs. If you have a family history of NAFLD, it is important to develop a healthy lifestyle of regular exercise and a liver healthy diet as early in life as possible.

Fatty Liver Symptoms

Most patients have no symptoms in the early stages of NAFLD, which can take years to develop.

Some may have a vague and occasional pain just below their rib cage on their right side. The pain experienced is dull in nature. It is not intense and sudden like when you have a gallbladder attack.

Most symptoms may be associated more with insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus Type 2.

For more information on symptoms, see Fatty Liver Symptoms

Treatment

Research has shown that a change in diet and exercise routines can reverse NAFLD, especially in the early stages, and restore normal liver function.

When losing weight, it is important to lose no more than 1 or 2 pounds each week. Sudden weight loss can actually make the fatty liver problem worse with the addition of liver inflammation.

Reversing NAFLD involves a slow and planned weight loss through a change in diet and an increase in physical activity.

For more information on Treatment, see Fatty Liver Treatment

In summary, fatty liver typically involves a family history of NAFLD. Being overweight increases your risk of developing this disease. If left untreated, it can develop into a serious condition where your liver is irreversibly scarred. This is usually no symptoms in the early stages. If caught early, lifestyle changes in diet and exercise can reverse NAFLD and restore normal liver function.

References

MedicineNet – Fatty Liver
WebMD – Fatty Liver Disease
UCSanDiego – Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Shown To Run In Families

For additional information, see Fatty Liver Diet.