Liver is not just the largest internal organ of the body, but also one of the most crucial for proper functioning of the human system. From detoxification and bile production to regulating blood sugar and cholesterol, the liver plays an important part in keeping health levels in check. With rising cases of fatty liver disease, it has become increasingly important to be aware of its symptoms and risk factors. If you are on the heavier side of the weighing scale and lead a sedentary lifestyle, consume alcohol and have blood sugar problems, you may be at a higher risk of fatty liver problems.
What is fatty liver disease?
Fatty liver disease is a condition characterized by excess accumulation of fat in the liver, resulting in the liver becoming larger and expanding in size. This excess fat accumulation is commonly observed in people with obesity, those with long-standing diabetes and those who excessively consume alcohol, explains Dr Naveen Ganjoo, Senior Consultant Hepatology and Liver transplant, SPARSH Hospital.
This health issue should not be ignored due to the health complications it can cause over time.
The doctor informs that as the condition progresses, patients may experience pain or discomfort in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen. In the initial stages, the excess fat accumulation may not cause any noticeable damage to the liver, but if left untreated, it can eventually cause liver cirrhosis, a very serious condition with long-term complications.
Rise of NAFLD
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD cases in India have been increasing rampantly. According to a study conducted by the Indian National Association for Study of the Liver, 40 percent of the population residing in the country, are affected by non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. What’s the reason, you may ask.
Dr Ganjoo says, “The primary reason behind this alarming increase in the incidence of fatty liver disease is attributed to metabolic risk factors such as leading a sedentary lifestyle and consuming food that is high in calories.”
What causes fatty liver and who is at risk?
It may be caused due to several reasons, including the following:
* Unhealthy eating habits, including a diet that is high in carbohydrates and sugar
* Excessive alcohol consumption
* Long-standing diabetes
* Certain medications such as antibiotics, ayurvedic medications, and herbal powders, can lead to fatty liver disease, if used irrationally.
* Genetic issues
* Viral hepatitis B and C.
“It is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid excessive consumption of alcohol to prevent fatty liver disease,” adds the expert.
Signs of fatty liver problem
Fatty liver disease progresses silently without showcasing any noticeable symptoms in the early stages. Therefore, it becomes important to watch out for some of the signs.
Excessive fatigue and pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen.
As the condition progresses, some patients may develop swelling in the legs and bloating due to the accumulation of water in the abdomen.
3. Disturbed sleep pattern
Patients with fatty liver disease may also experience altered sleep patterns, fatigue and lethargy.
How to manage or treat fatty liver disease
According to the expert, the most important step for patients diagnosed with fatty liver disease is to treat the underlying cause. In the case of obesity, weight loss is the primary goal. Losing 8-10 percent of body weight can often result in a significant improvement in fatty liver disease.
If the fatty liver disease is caused by viral hepatitis or other viruses, treating the underlying virus can help the patient recover. Besides medications, include certain basic lifestyle changes such reducing alcohol consumption, consuming a healthy diet, regular exercise, weight loss. These healthy lifestyle changes will help to reduce the burden on liver.
5 tips to prevent fatty liver disease
1. Avoid weight gain and adopt a healthy, balanced diet
2. Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol
3. All diabetic patients must go for screening for fatty liver as they are at higher risk of developing the condition
4. Control diabetes well through proper medication, diet and exercise
5. Prevent and treat viral diseases such as hepatitis B and C, to reduce the risk of developing viral-induced fatty liver disease.
Early detection and intervention can help manage and treat fatty liver disease, preventing it from progressing to a more serious stage.