Fatty liver disease is a condition that finds its origin in an accumulation of fat in the liver, the body’s largest organ. The disease is split into two major subtypes: alcoholic fatty liver disease (which is caused by excessive alcohol consumption) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (which isn’t). The latter iteration of fatty liver disease affects about a quarter of the world’s population.
Despite how common fatty liver disease is, it’s notoriously difficult to diagnose. This is the case because the disease is typically asymptomatic. If you do present with symptoms, they could include discomfort in the upper right part of your abdomen or fatigue.
Because of its asymptomatic nature, fatty liver disease is often diagnosed after your doctor spots abnormal results on a liver test you had done for other reasons. If the results lead your doctor to suspect you could have fatty liver disease, they may use the following to reach a diagnosis:
- A physical exam. During this exam, your doctor will take your height and weight, and look for other signs of fatty liver disease, like cirrhosis, which could lead to jaundice. Jaundice may cause the whites of your eyes and your skin to appear yellow. Your doctor will also check to see if your liver is enlarged.
- Your medical history. When asking about your medical history, your doctor will likely ask what medications you’re on, to see if they could be causing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. They’ll also ask how much you drink, because excessive alcohol consumption could lead to alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Imaging and blood tests. Imaging tests can assess how stiff the liver is and how much fat is present; stiffness is indicative of scarring, or fibrosis. Blood tests can assess the levels of certain enzymes and other substances in your blood.
- A liver biopsy. Liver biopsies can confirm a fatty liver disease diagnosis and assess how severe the damage done to the liver is.
The Ezra MRI scan may help you screen for fatty liver disease; you can learn more about our screening packages at the following link.