How Can Fatty Liver Disease Affect My Health?

As the second-largest body organ, the liver performs numerous crucial functions, such as filtering blood, producing bile and processing glucose. Over time, damage to the liver can induce cirrhosis, a medical problem where fibrotic (scar) tissue takes over healthy areas within the organ. A range of factors and liver problems could result in cirrhosis (severe scarring) of the liver. One of these conditions, known as fatty liver disease, is experienced by approximately 25 percent of U.S. citizens and is on the rise.

A gastrointestinal (GI) doctor can determine if there is a buildup of fat in the liver and diagnose fatty liver disease. If you or a member of your family might be at a greater risk for this condition, expert medical care from a San Antonio, TX gastrointestinal specialist can help you take steps to counteract the accumulation of fat in the liver and improve your health. Partner with a digestive health specialist at San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates to further explore this common but often avoidable health problem.

What do I need to know about fatty liver disease?

Roughly 20 – 40% of patients in the U.S. are diagnosed with a fatty liver. Fatty liver disease occurs when there is too much fat in the liver. While some fat in the liver is not a concern, a fat constitution in excess of 5% can lead to cirrhosis and inflammation, the medical term for which is hepatic steatosis. The main forms of fatty liver disease are identified as alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Common causes of fat in the liver

Drinking alcohol in excess might lead to a buildup of fat in the liver. If this occurrence ends up causing inflammation or scar tissue, it is typically termed alcoholic steatohepatitis. When individuals consume little to no alcohol, the general causative factors for NAFLD are considered to be:

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Being overweight

  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)

  • High cholesterol

In cases where NAFLD advances to the point of causing swelling and injury to the liver tissues, it is called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH. This liver condition is forecasted to overtake the hepatitis C virus as the top cause for liver transplants in the country.

How can I identify the indications of fatty liver disease?

A patient who is affected by a fatty liver condition is unlikely to present any apparent signs. Among patients where indications of the condition are experienced, however, it could be because there is significant damage to the liver. These symptoms often include:

  • A change in bowel habits

  • Queasy stomach

  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes

  • Urine dark in color

  • Abdominal swelling and swollen ankles

  • Lethargy

If you or a loved one is experiencing such health issues, contact San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates to have a gastrointestinal doctor diagnose the condition. Without professional care, fatty liver disease among San Antonio, TX patients may progress to cirrhosis and potentially manifest with other health concerns, such as ascites (the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal area), swollen veins in the esophagus, hepatic encephalopathy (a decline in brain function due to liver disease), cancer of the liver, and the need for a liver transplant due to liver failure.

Can a fatty liver condition be treated?

The ideal methods for addressing hepatic steatosis often include a proper diet and exercise. Patients with AFLD are advised to refrain from further alcohol consumption, which can halt the advancement of fatty liver disease. Avoiding the consumption of alcohol is also recommended if an individual's fatty liver disease does not stem from alcohol use. If you have been diagnosed with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, dropping 10% of your entire body weight may minimize the fat accumulation in your liver. Consistent heart-healthy activities can also help minimize a buildup of fat in the organ. Following a healthy dietary intake might serve to control issues that are risk factors for fatty liver disease, like high cholesterol and diabetes, which can lower the fat content in the liver.

Obtain expert care for a fatty liver in San Antonio, TX

A fatty liver might develop into cirrhosis and increase the chance of liver failure in the absence of qualified treatment. If you or a member of your family notices signs of fat in the liver, get in touch with our San Antonio, TX team for help with managing this illness. San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates is comprised of an experienced staff of GI doctors who prioritize the comfort and needs of their patients above all else.