Hepatic steatosis, commonly known as fatty liver disease, has become the most common disease of the liver. Caused by the storage of extra fat in the liver, it is prevalent in more than 30 percent of the population and can lead to liver fibrosis, inflammation (hepatitis), cirrhosis, and cancer. However, most people have no symptoms, and it can often be prevented or even reversed with lifestyle changes.
There are two main forms of fatty liver disease:
- Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD), which is the accumulation of fat in the liver because of heavy drinking; represents approximately 5 percent of all cases.
- Nonalcoholic Liver Disease (NAFLD), which affects one in three adults and one in 10 children in the U.S. While the exact cause of this form of the disease is unknown, it is believed that obesity and diabetes can increase one’s risk.
Risk Factors for Fatty Liver Disease
You have a greater chance of developing fatty liver disease if you:
- Are Asian or Hispanic
- Are a postmenopausal woman
- Have obesity with a high level of belly fat
- Have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol
- Have obstructive sleep apnea
Symptoms of Hepatic Steatosis
Most people have no symptoms until the disease progresses to cirrhosis of the liver. Symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain or a feeling of fullness in the upper right side of the abdomen
- Nausea, loss of appetite, or weight loss
- Swollen abdomen and legs
- Yellowish skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- Extreme fatigue or mental confusion
How Liver Disease is Diagnosed
Physicians rely on a thorough medical history, physical palpitation of the abdomen, and other diagnostic tests, such as blood tests to measure liver enzymes; imaging tests, such as a CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI; or a biopsy of liver tissue, to determine the extent of the condition.
Hepatic Steatosis with Hepatomegaly
This form of fatty liver disease includes an enlargement of the liver. There are multiple potential causes of liver inflammation, including ALD and NAFLD, in addition to hepatitis, liver cancer, and heart failure.
How Hepatic Steatosis is Treated
In the case of ALD, treatment involves addressing the alcohol use disorder itself, including undergoing a supervised medical detox, abstaining from alcohol, and utilizing therapy to support the underlying factors that led to the overuse of alcohol.
The treatment of NAFLD depends on the underlying cause, but it may include making dietary changes (reducing the intake of cholesterol and fats), controlling blood sugar levels, and managing underlying health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes.
Treatment for Hepatic Steatosis with Hepatomegaly
In addition to the treatments noted above for ALD and NAFLD, there are specific treatment options related to the other conditions that lead to an enlarged liver, or hepatomegaly.
Hepatitis treatments vary according to the type of hepatitis a person has. There are no specific treatments for Hepatitis A; most people will recover fully within several weeks or months. There are also no specific treatments for acute Hepatitis B. Physicians prescribe antiviral medications to reduce liver damage and increase long-term survival in the case of chronic Hepatitis B. Hepatitis can be treated over 3 to 6 months with direct-acting antiviral drugs, depending on the severity of the liver damage. Hepatitis D requires interferon-alpha drugs, which will slow the progression of the condition.
Potential treatment options for liver cancer will vary based on the size and stage of cancer, but they will typically include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, surgery to remove the tumor, or a liver transplant.
Lifestyle changes will help manage heart failure and prevent further complications, including quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, managing stress, losing weight, increasing physical activity, and eating a healthier diet. Medications and surgery are also options to mitigate heart failure.
The Digestive Health Centers of North Texas Team can Help
If you are experiencing any symptoms that you think might be related to liver disease, it’s important to get with a specialist right away to evaluate your symptoms and your lifestyle, especially since the progression of the most common forms of liver disease can be thwarted or reversed. Digestive Health Centers can help, and we’re ready to have a conversation with you. Contact us today.