What is Fatty Liver disease?

Fatty liver disease (NAFLD) refers to the accumulation of fat in the liver. It affects approximately 10% of adults in the Western world, and its the most common cause of abnormal results on liver function testing.

What causes Fatty Liver disease?

Fatty liver disease can be caused by a range of conditions. NAFLD often occurs in people with: obesity (~75%), diabetes (~75%), high cholesterol (~50%) and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

What are the symptoms of Fatty Liver disease?

People affected with fatty liver disease usually do not have any symptoms. Most people with fatty liver disease are unaware of their condition, and is it often only picked up when routine blood testing of the liver function is abnormal.

Are there any complications of Fatty Liver disease?

In about 20% of people with fatty liver, over 20 years, they can develop scarring of the liver. Severe scarring of the liver can occur leading to cirrhosis, and this in turn can result in liver failure.

How is Fatty Liver diagnosed?

Fatty liver disease is often suspected when routine blood tests of liver function are abnormal. The only definitive test to differentiate simple fatty liver from inflammation/steatohepatitis is a liver biopsy. Although a liver biopsy is not routinely performed, it may be recommended if the diagnosis is unclear, or the blood tests for the liver are very abnormal.

What is the treatment of Fatty Liver disease?

Although medication is available for the treatment of conditions such as diabetes or obesity, there is currently no proven specific medication for fatty liver disease. The general recommendations for fatty liver include:

  • Healthy lifestyle
  • Weight loss
  • Regular exercise
  • Dietary modification
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Diabetes management