The liver is responsible for filtering toxins and harmful substances from the blood. Because of this, it is one of the toughest organs of the body. It has the ability to regenerate its cells if they suffer damages. And it can grow back if one suffers from a surgery and the doctor cuts a part of it. If the liver wasn’t like this, then humans wouldn’t be able to survive all the pollution, chemicals, and poisons that they are exposed to regularly. But that doesn’t mean that the liver isn’t susceptible to disease. Conditions like diabetes and obesity can cause fat to accumulate in the liver, which can make it not function as well. When this happens, it is called fatty liver disease.
What is Fatty Liver Disease?
All livers have a small amount of fat in them, which is perfectly harmless. But sometimes, too much fat will accumulate all over the liver. This can happen for several different reasons. If someone suffers from addictions to drugs, the liver can’t keep up with all the filtering that it has to do.
So it will become more susceptible to damage that it could normally resist. It can also become damaged if a person has to take a lot of prescription medications. Diabetes can cause it too. But most cases of fatty liver disease develop because a person is severely obese. Fat increases all over an obese person’s body, including their liver.
Doctors classify the development of this disease into two different types to make treatment easier. If someone develops fatty liver disease because of alcoholism, then we can say they suffer from “alcoholic fatty liver disease.” But if the other above mentioned contributing factors were to blame, then it is referred to as “non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.” This article will focus on this second type because the first type requires a person to deal with their underlying alcoholism before they can be effectively treated.
What are the Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease?
The excess accumulation of fat in the liver will initially not cause any symptoms. It is only when a person goes in for other tests, and it is discovered that they will know that something is wrong. But more advanced forms of the disease can be diagnosed if someone complains of discomfort in the upper right quadrant of their abdomen. They will also have fatigue that makes daily tasks difficult. The palms of their hands will turn red, and their spleen will swell.
Men who develop this liver disease will also notice that they have an increase in breast tissue. This usually makes men feel insecure and embarrassed. However, part of the reason for the increase in tissue in this region is because men can also develop a hormone imbalance if they are overweight. Fat increases the amount of estrogen that men produce. And this extra estrogen causes breasts to develop in men.
If you do not treat the fatty liver disease, it will turn into a more dangerous form of liver disease called “cirrhosis of the liver.” So it is crucial that a person experiencing any of these symptoms talk to their doctor about it right away.
Does Fatty Liver Disease Require an Emergency Room Visit?
While this condition is serious, there is little that emergency room staff can do to help a person who has it. Emergency rooms are designed for stabilizing people with conditions that require urgent treatment, and fatty liver disease cannot be helped with the short-term treatment that is offered at an emergency room. It is a chronic condition that requires special treatment on a long-term basis. However, complications can arise though. So if a person with this condition has any of the following symptoms, they should seek immediate medical care:
- Sudden swelling in the abdomen.
- Blood in the stools or urine.
How is Fatty Liver Disease Diagnosed?
As mentioned above, doctors can discover most cases of this disease through testing that a person is getting for other conditions, especially stomach ailments. X-rays, sonograms, and other tests that have detailed imagery will show the formations of fat deposits in the liver. However, if the testing isn’t clear, then a doctor might order a biopsy of the liver. This way, they can see the liver more clearly. There are risks of this type of surgery though. A person can experience side effects from the anesthesia that it requires. They will also be at risk for getting an infection from the surgery. So a biopsy is usually done only as a last resort after blood work confirms that a person’s liver enzymes are high.
What is the Treatment for Fatty Liver Disease?
The method of treating fatty liver disease depends on what caused it to develop in the first place. If diabetes causes this issue, then the doctor might change your medications to address the unstable sugar levels. Diet and exercise are usually suggested to those who have fat on their liver because they are obese. And as mentioned before, if the disease was caused by alcoholism or drug use, then a person will have to seek treatment for their addiction problem to be able to heal their liver.
How Long Does This Disease Typically Last?
You should not expect to cure fatty liver disease overnight. It takes a long time to develop it, so reversing it can take several months. Sometimes, people struggle with it for years, though. How long the disease lasts all depends on how dedicated a person is to improve their health. Those who give their best effort to change their diet, exercise, and avoid alcohol and drugs can heal faster than those who don’t.
Fatty liver disease is a chronic condition that often has very few symptoms. Because of this, it is crucial that diabetics and people who suffer from obesity seek a doctor’s help on a regular basis. The specialist can screen their condition and help them maintain a normal life. Doctors can reverse or prevent fatty liver disease by recommending their patients to maintain a healthy lifestyle. So, it is best that all people who are at risk for developing it get plenty of exercise. Moreover, they should make changes to their diet.
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