Fatty Liver


    Facts at a Glance

    • A fatty liver is caused by the build-up of excess fat in the cells of the liver.
    • If fat accounts for more than 5-10% of your liver's weight, then you have a fatty liver.
    • People tend to develop a fatty liver if they have certain other conditions, such as obesity,diabetes or high triglyceride levels.
    • About 10-20% of Indians suffer from fatty liver disease.
    • If your liver is inflamed,over time it can develop into liver cirrhosis and eventually lead to liver failure.
    • People can have an inflamed or fatty liver for many years without experiencing any symptoms.

    The Liver

    The liver, which is one of the largest organs in the body, is very complex and performs many important functions.These include:

    • Breaking down food (to be stored as energy)
    • Storing vitamins, iron and other minerals
    • Making proteins, including blood clotting factors, to keep the body healthy and to help it grow
    • Making bile, which is needed for food digestion
    • Metabolising or breaking down medication and alcohol

    The liver works very hard to keep the body healthy and,most often,it does not give any warning signs to let you know that it is damaged. Certain conditions that develop, such as fatty liver disease and steatohepatitis,may be signs of liver injury and can lead to permanent liver damage, which must be taken seriously.


    What is Fatty Liver disease?

    As the name suggests, fatty liver disease occurs when there is a build-up of excess fat in the cells of the liver.It is normal for your liver to contain some fat. But, if fat accounts for more than 5-10% of your liver's weight, then you have a fatty liver. This can lead to more serious complications.


    What are the causes of Fatty Liver disease?

    Fatty liver disease may cause no damage, but sometimes the presence of excess fat leads to the inflammation of the liver. This condition, which is called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH, causes liver damage. An inflamed liver may become scarred and hardened over time. This condition, which is called cirrhosis, is serious and often leads to liver failure.NASH is one of the top three leading causes of cirrhosis.



    What are the symptoms of Fatty Liver disease?

    A fatty liver produces no symptoms on its own. So,people often learn that they have a fatty liver when they go for medical tests for other reasons. NASH can damage your liver over years or even decades without causing any symptoms.If the disease gets worse,you may experience weakness, weight loss, fatigue, swelling of the abdomen or edema feet, vomiting (blood),or even confusion. People can have NASH for many years without symptoms, even though liver damage may still be occurring.


    How is Fatty Liver disease diagnosed?

    Your hepatologist (liver specialist) may see something unusual in your blood test or notice that your liver is slightly enlarged during a routine check-up. These could be signs of a fatty liver.To make sure you don't have any other liver disease,your hepatologist (liver specialist) may ask for more blood tests, an ultrasound,a CT scan or even an MRI. If other diseases are ruled out,you may be diagnosed with NASH. The only way to know for sure is to get a liver biopsy done. During a liver biopsy, the hepatologist (liver specialist) takes a sample of the liver tissue with a needle and examines it under a microscope. Liver biopsies are performed only when absolutely necessary.


    How is Fatty Liver disease treated?

    If you have fatty liver disease or NASH, you should:

    • Lose weight
    • Lower your triglyceride levels by controlling diet, medication or both
    • Avoid consuming alcohol.
    • Keep a control on diabetes (if you have it).
    • Maintain a balanced, healthy diet.
    • Increase your level of physical activity.
    • Go for a health check-up on a regular basis.
    • Get a hepatologist to guide you with your dietary and medical treatment.

    Appropriate medical or surgical treatment for fatty liver disease or NASH may be advised to help prevent or reverse liver damage.