At GIDOCJHB, registered gastroenterologist, Dr. Schneider, has been been diagnosing and treating treating liver diseases for over a decade.
GiDOCJHB provides treatment options for chronic liver diseases.
Dr. Schneider evaluates the health and function of your liver, provides diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment plan that can help in the treatment of fatty liver disease.
What is the Liver’s Function?
Your liver has a lot of responsibility. The liver’s main job is to filter and clean the blood coming from the digestive tract before passing it to the rest of the body.
The liver also stores energy and assists in food digestion.
In short, the liver:
- Produces bile, which helps with digestion.
- Makes proteins for the body.
- Stores iron.
- Converts nutrients into energy.
- Creates substances that help your blood clot (stick together to heal wounds).
- Helps you resist infections by making immune factors and removing bacteria and toxins (substances that can harm your body) from your blood.
What is Fatty Liver Disease?
Fatty liver disease (steatosis) is a common condition caused by having too much fat build up in your liver. A healthy liver contains a small amount of fat.
It becomes a problem when fat reaches 5% to 10% of your liver’s weight. There are two types of fatty liver disease: non-alcoholic and alcoholic.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease occurs in people who aren’t heavy drinkers. Researchers haven’t found the exact cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Several factors, such as obesity and diabetes, can increase your risk.
Alcoholic Liver Disease
Alcoholic fatty liver is the accumulation of fat in the liver as a result of heavy drinking.
To find out more about Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, click here
Why is Fatty Liver Disease Bad?
If fat has developed in your liver, it may not function as well as it should and can lead to other health issues.
For just under 1 in every 3 people who are diagnosed with this disease, it gets worse over time and progresses through three stages:
- Your liver becomes inflamed (swollen), which damages its tissue.
- Scar tissue forms where your liver is damaged.
- Extensive scar tissue replaces healthy tissue. At this point, you have cirrhosis of the liver.
Fatty Liver Disease Causes and Risk Factors
Some people get fatty liver disease without having any pre-existing conditions. The cause of fatty liver disease is not entirely clear.
However, genetics may play a role. These risk factors make it more likely to get diagnosed with fatty liver disease:
- Being overweight or obese
- Having high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or insulin resistance.
- Taking certain prescription medications or steroids (check with your gastroenterologist)
- Alcohol abuse
- Have certain infections, such as hepatitis C
Fatty Liver Disease Diagnosis
Without accurate, prompt diagnosis and appropriate care, fatty liver disease can cause liver scarring and permanent, irreversible damage or complete liver failure.
However, because there are often no symptoms, it is not easy to find fatty liver disease.
Your gastroenterologist may suspect that you have it if you get abnormal results on liver tests that you had for other reasons.
To make a diagnosis, your gastroenterologist will use:
- Your medical history = Questions may be asked regarding alcohol consumption, medication use (both prescription and over-the-counter) and past medical history
- A physical exam = Physical examination may reveal an enlarged liver that can be palpated or felt in the abdomen below the right rib margin. Otherwise, it may require the development of cirrhosis to elicit abnormalities on physical examination.
- Various tests, including blood and imaging tests, and sometimes a biopsy
Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease is sometimes called a silent liver disease, usually, because no symptoms occur until the disease progresses to cirrhosis of the liver.
However, If you do have symptoms, they may include:
- Severe tiredness
- Weight loss
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes
- Spiderlike blood vessels on the skin
- Long-lasting itching
Treatment and Lifestyle Changes
There is no specific treatment for fatty liver disease, but lifestyle changes can significantly improve the condition and perhaps even reverse it in the early stages. These changes include:
- Losing weight. Having a well-designed exercise and eating plan designed by a gastroenterologist or dietitian can be beneficial. Gradual weight loss is the key, as sudden, severe weight loss can actually make the condition worse. A person should try to avoid foods that are high in saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, or sugar.
- Avoiding medicines that may affect your liver, such as some steroids. Do not take medicines that have not been prescribed by your gastroenterologist.
- Avoiding all forms of alcohol
- Controlling your diabetes
When to Call Your Gastroenterologist
- If you have abdominal pain.
- If you notice any yellow skin color changes.
- If you have leg swelling.
- If you notice swelling of the abdomen.
- If you need a referral to a gastroenterologist (a physician specializing in diseases of the intestines, gallbladder, pancreas, and liver).
Fatty Liver FAQ’s
Does fatty liver disease only affect obese individuals?
Obesity increases the risk of developing fatty liver disease. Thin people or those of average build can also get fatty liver.
Can children develop fatty liver disease?
Yes, that’s why it’s important to control your child’s weight through a healthy diet and exercise.
How do you prevent fatty liver disease?
Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise is still the key to protecting your liver.
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY
The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.