Fatty liver (patient information)

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Fatty liver

Overview

What are the symptoms?

Who is at highest risk?

Diagnosis

When to seek urgent medical care?

Treatment options

Where to find medical care for Fatty liver?

Prevention

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-In-Chief: Jinhui Wu, M.D.

Overview

Fatty liver disease is a term used to describe the accumulation of fat in the liver of people. It can be caused by alcohol abuse, overweight, obesity and diabetes. People often learn about their fatty liver when they have medical examinations for other reasons. There are usually no symptoms that are noticeable to the patient. Some non-specific symptoms include fatigue and weakness, abdominal discomfort or abdominal pain. The goal of the following tests is to rule out other liver diseases, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis. Usual tests include blood tests and images. There are no medical or surgical treatments for fatty liver, but a good life-style may help you revent or reverse some of the damage. Because steatosis may be reversible with life-style changes, the prognosis of many patients with fatty liver is good. Only 10% of the patients will progress to cirrhosis.

What are the symptoms of fatty liver?

There are usually no symptoms that are noticeable to the patient with fatty liver. They often learn about their fatty liver when they have medical tests for other reasons. With the disease developing, patients may experience:

Other health problems may also cause these symptoms. Only a doctor can tell for sure. A person with any of these symptoms should tell the doctor so that the problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

Diseases with similar symptoms

Who is at risk for fatty liver?

Diagnosis

Fatty liver may often be discovered while the physician is evaluating a patient for other illnesses. The goal of the following tests is to rule out other liver diseases, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis.

  • Blood tests: Blood tests including complete blood count, liver function test, coagulation function test, etc. There may be a rise in certain liver enzymes found in the blood.
  • Imaging procedures and biopsy: Images studies such as ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can show the constructure of liver and rule out other liver diseases. These images may show a slightly enlarged liver. To be certain of a diagnosis of fatty liver, the physician may recommend a liver biopsy. These images tests can guide biopsy and a biopsy sample is usually removed and looked at under a microscope by a pathologist.

When to seek urgent medical care?

Call your health care provider if symptoms of fatty liver develop.

Treatment options

There are no medical or surgical treatments for fatty liver, but a good life-style may help you revent or reverse some of the damage.

  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet to reduce high blood triglycerides
  • Control weight
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Control your diabetes, if you have it
  • Increase your physical activity
  • Get regular checkups from a doctor who specializes in liver care

Where to find medical care for fatty liver?

Directions to Hospitals Treating fatty liver

Prevention

  • Avoidance of alcohol abuse
  • Eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

  • Steatosis may be reversible with weight loss and/or stopping alcohol abuse.
  • The prognosis of many patients with fatty liver is good. Only 10% of the patients will progress to cirrhosis.

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