How to Know the Difference Between Fatty Liver and Cirrhosis

Having a healthy gastrointestinal system is necessary for preserving your overall wellness, and one of the most vital organs of the gastrointestinal system is the liver. Positioned beside the stomach, the liver is responsible for many essential processes, such as breaking down carbs, fats and proteins, producing bile, acting as storage for minerals and glycogen, eliminating hormones and drugs, along with many more. But when the liver is affected by disease, it can have a detrimental effect on your overall wellness. Two of these illnesses are a fatty liver and cirrhosis of the liver. At San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates, our highly skilled staff of physicians in San Antonio, TX partner with patients to listen to their medical concerns and diagnose any problems.

What to know about fatty liver disease

Fatty liver disease is an issue defined by the presence of adipocytes within the liver. This condition has two primary classifications: nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD). Although AFLD attributes to significant alcohol consumption, NAFLD may be caused by type 2 diabetes, obesity, or lipid disorder, and it is the sole most prevalent kind of liver disease in the country. It is difficult to know if you are experiencing FLD because the condition usually does not generate any notable effects; however, it can be diagnosed by our San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates team through blood work, diagnostic imaging, or a biopsy of the liver.

Symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver

If you live in a way that is damaging to your liver, it's possible that you could develop cirrhosis. Cirrhosis of the liver is defined by the formation of scarring in place of normal tissue. Cirrhosis is not a condition that develops all at once, but it is typically an outcome of years of impairment to the liver, either as a result of excessive drinking or from a separate disease that remains unaddressed for a long time. Much like hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease), the first stages of cirrhosis of the liver do not often prompt indications to show up. Nonetheless, some signals of cirrhosis you might encounter as scarring continues to build up include:

  • Discomfort in the abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Fluid retention
  • Jaundice
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Dark urine
  • Memory problems
  • Abnormal stools
  • Lack of energy
  • Bleeding gums

These are only a few of the symptoms that could occur as the condition gets more severe over the long term.

Key differences between fatty liver disease and cirrhosis

Whereas hepatic steatosis and cirrhosis both affect the liver, it's important to note a number of primary distinctions.

  1. Hepatic steatosis is characterized by the buildup of fat in the liver; however, cirrhosis involves the development of scarring on top of healthy tissue.
  2. Both variations of fatty liver disease (AFLD and NAFLD) may cause cirrhosis if not addressed in time.
  3. Both illnesses take time to develop, but cirrhosis of the liver warrants a considerably more serious concern.
  4. Fatty liver disease is much more prevalent.

If you have either of these illnesses, it's advised to receive care as soon as possible. While both problems could be long term, having your symptoms addressed and your wellness cared for is important for your quality of life.

Find out more about maintaining your liver health

San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates is glad to employ a tremendously qualified group of experienced gastroenterologists who have a deep understanding of the GI system and the life-giving organs that comprise it. We strive to understand your concerns to the fullest degree and utilize innovative diagnostic equipment to offer the most precise diagnoses. To schedule an exam, reach out to our team in San Antonio, TX.