Why Fatty Liver Has Been An Increasing Concern Today
No longer a condition only found in excessive alcohol drinkers, fatty liver disease has become more apparent today. With an average of one in three Singaporeans contracting the disease, it’s crucial to know what fatty liver entails and why a case of fatty liver can be a concern.
As a key organ in your body that performs detoxifying and metabolic functions, your liver stores and breaks down fats used as energy by the body. However, when there is a build-up of fat in your liver cells and the fat content crosses over 5% of the liver’s weight, the patient is known to suffer from fatty liver disease. While fatty liver disease can be mild and reversible, if not appropriately managed, a more advanced liver disease that causes the organ to be inflamed or damaged, can put your liver at risk.
Possible causes of fatty liver
Typically, the root of the problem lies in overconsumption of a particular type of food – for instance, high sugar content drinks or fatty food, leading to overweight and obesity. As such, about 80% of obese people are said to have fatty liver disease. Yet, this does not rule out non-obese individuals: this disease has been closely linked with the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.
Symptoms of fatty liver
Unfortunately, the early stages of fatty liver disease do not produce specific symptoms. Hence, a case of mild fatty liver disease goes unnoticed. Many only come to realise the contraction of the disease when their liver function tests come back with abnormal readings. But, should you experience any fatty liver symptoms, they might come in the form of nausea, discomfort in the upper abdominal areas, fatigue, loss of appetite and a bloated tummy.
On the other hand, if the disease has advanced, more apparent symptoms will be seen. Symptoms such as nausea, drop in concentrate level, abdominal pain or bloating and jaundice can appear.
When fatty liver poses a concern
When the abnormal reading of your liver function tests reveals elevated liver enzymes, or when an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) indicates fatty liver, it’s best to follow up with more comprehensive medical examinations. In some cases, a liver biopsy may be needed to determine the stage of the fatty liver disease.
Should the symptoms prove manageable, your doctor would suggest a change in lifestyle habits, such as the following.
- Reduce carbohydrate and sugar intake
- Increase intake of fruits, vegetables, lean meat and whole grains
- Regular exercise of at least two to three times a week
- Avoid food high in fat content
- Avoid alcohol
In the unfortunate case that fatty liver disease has progressed, the scarring and hardening of your liver might become permanent. This means that the functionality of the liver is significantly reduced. At this stage, the patient is said to have contracted liver cirrhosis and he is at risk of developing liver cancer. At this stage, liver transplantation may be a treatment option.
Because the liver is an organ in your body that can regenerate, fatty liver disease is highly reversible, especially if discovered and managed in the early stages. However, it’s best to attend regular blood tests and should a case of fatty liver be suspected, speak to a specialist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.