What Is Fatty Liver Disease?

Fatty liver is a condition in which excess fat is stored in the liver.  Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) currently affects 25% of people in the US. Over time, the disease can progress to NASH or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis which is swelling of the liver. It is estimated that up to 6% of the population has NASH.  As inflammation and scarring or cirrhosis continue in the liver, it is no longer able to do its job of removing toxins from the body. Up to 12% of those with NASH will progress to cirrhosis which is the last stage before total liver death.  We cannot live without a liver. If a transplant is not available, death soon occurs. 

What Are the Risks?

In years past, the most common cause of fatty liver was from alcoholism. Today, NAFLD is associated with obesity and excess sugar intake. As your body tries to get rid of excess glucose or sugar in the blood stream, it converts sugar to triglycerides which can then enter the liver for storage lowering the blood glucose level. The only problem is the liver is not meant to be a storage bin. As more and more fat is stored in the liver, it eventually will not have room to work and will fail. 

What Are the Symptoms?

NAFLD rarely has any symptoms in the early stages. If the disease progresses, you may have fatigue, weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, spider-like blood vessels on the face and abdomen, yellowing of the skin and eyes, itching, fluid buildup and swelling of the legs and abdomen (ascites), and mental confusion.  

How Is it Diagnosed?

If you have risk factors such as obesity, excess sugar intake or uncontrolled diabetes, ask your healthcare provider to do a simple blood test to check your liver enzymes. 

How Is it Treated?

There is no treatment for NAFLD or NASH. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, maintining a healthy weight and getting diabetes in control can prevent liver disease or reverse it in the early stages. The liver has an amazing ability to grow back or regenerate when damaged to a certain point.

So don’t delay. Take one step every day toward a healthier and longer life. 

Dr. Julie Wood is a Nurse Practitioner and has been serving the Middle Tennessee area for more than 30 years, specializing in adults with obesity, prediabetes and diabetes. Office is located at 401 First Avenue, Mt. Pleasant, TN and statewide with telehealth. Dr. Wood can be reached at 931-325-5560, www.diabetesmgtassociates.com, info@diabetesmgtassociates.com.  

Articles are meant to be informative and should never replace the advice of your health care provider.