Fatty liver disease is inflammation and fatty deposits in the liver that may lead to liver disease. The majority of patients with a fatty liver will have a normal liver function blood test and are not aware they have it until they have a liver scan or ultrasound. Most people are asymptomatic but those at risk include those who are severely overweight, have diabetes, have metabolic syndrome co-exist and those with alcoholic liver disease or viral hepatitis. Some medications can also increase the risk of developing this condition and these include tamoxifen, amiodarone, methotrexate and tetracycline, just to name a few.
In some cases, fatty liver disease can lead to inflammation of the liver with associated fat accumulation in the liver. Those who develop this may experience fatigue, pain near the liver or weight loss. Over time, inflammation and scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) can also develop if not treated. Treatment options include lifestyle modifications such as healthy eating, exercise and smoking cessation. If diabetic, reducing bad processed carbohydrates, fast food and sugar in the diet is also helpful. Additionally, for severely overweight patients, bariatric surgery can improve fatty liver disease. There are many other natural treatments out there, however, a lack of evidence that they work will make them less likely to be recommended.
Lastly, there is no recommendation that a person should be routinely screened for fatty liver disease. However, if you are at risk of developing this condition, lifestyle changes may be beneficial for you.
Keisha Ellis is a certified family nurse practitioner for Eastern New Mexico Medical Group’s Quick Care. The advice offered in this column is that of the author.