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Blog / Liver Health

Fatty Liver Disease: Statistics, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

sheher-preisler
Jul. 17 2019 by sheher-preisler
Fatty Liver Disease: Statistics, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

Fatty Liver Disease is caused by a buildup of fat in the liver. The condition is split into two distinct subtypes:

  1. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
  2. Alcoholic fatty liver disease, aka alcoholic steatohepatitis

NAFLD, which is not caused by excessive alcohol consumption, affects approximately 25% of the world’s population. The rate of NAFLD is rising with the rates of type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity in the US; it’s now the most common chronic liver disorder in the country. NAFLD is split into two further subtypes:

  1. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH): in this case, the liver is inflamed and its cells are damaged; there is also fat present in the liver itself. The former two can lead to fibrosis–aka scarring–of the liver. NASH can ultimately cause liver cancer or cirrhosis. 
  2. Simple fatty liver: in this instance, there is fat present in the liver, but minimal or no liver cell damage or inflammation. This condition generally does not get severe enough to result in liver damage or other complications.

While researchers haven’t yet pinpointed the exact causes of NAFLD, they have isolated some risk factors that may increase your likelihood of developing the disease:

  • Obesity
  • Prediabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High levels of fats–such as triglycerides and cholesterol–in the blood
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Being middle aged
  • Hepatitis C and other infections
  • High blood pressure
  • Being Latino or Caucasian
  • Previous exposure to certain toxins
  • Certain medications, such as specific cancer drugs and corticosteroids
  • Insulin resistance syndrome and other metabolic conditions

Alcoholic fatty liver disease, as its name suggests, is caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Your risk of developing the disease is compounded if you:

  • are a woman
  • are obese
  • have certain genetic mutations
  • have been a heavy drinker for a while

While our livers break down most of the alcohol we consume, the process by which it does so could create harmful byproducts which are capable of inflammation, damaging liver cells, and weakening the body’s defense system. Therefore, the more alcohol we consume, the more damage we inflict upon our livers. Alcoholic fatty liver disease is the first stage of liver diseases related to alcohol; its later stages are alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. 

Alcoholic fatty liver disease and NAFLD alike are often asymptomatic, exhibiting little to no signs. Symptoms may, however, include exhaustion or discomfort in the upper right portion of the abdomen. Because of this, doctors often diagnose fatty liver disease when performing liver tests for other reasons and finding abnormal results.

The Ezra MRI scan could pick up fatty liver disease. You can learn more about our scanning packages by following this link.