It is normal to have a small amount of fat in the liver, but if this is in excess of five to 10 per cent of the total weight of the liver, you may have liver disease. In any case, you have what is known as fatty liver.
Fatty liver can occur after drinking moderate or large amounts of alcohol. It can even occur after a short period of heavy drinking (acute alcoholic liver disease).
Genetics or heredity plays a role in alcoholic liver disease in two ways: It may influence your alcohol tolerance lever and you likelihood of developing alcoholism. It may also affect levels of live enzymes involved in the breakdown (metabolism) of alcohol.
In addition, other factors that may cause an enlarged liver are:
- Hepatitis C
- Too much iron in your blood
- Being overweight
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is by far the number one cause of this condition.
There are also people who have what is called non-alcoholic steatohepatisis which is similar to alcoholic liver disease, but occurs in people who don’t drink a lot, or even teetotalers who don’t drink at all.
This type can lead to serious problems as it may cause scar tissue in the liver, called cirrhosis. Over time, this can lead to liver cancer, liver damage and failure, or liver-related death. It you have steatosis, you may develop diabetes. You might also have a significant risk of cardiovascular complications and end stage liver failure.
Often, there may not be any symptoms to NALFD. Some possible symptoms are:
- Pain in your upper right abdominal area
- Weight loss
If you are showing any yellowing of the whites of your eyes or skin – which is jaundice – you should see a doctor immediately as this can also be a sign of serious liver failure.
The effects of this condition can be reduced by making simple diet and lifestyle changes, and in most cases can even turn it around completely.
Here are some steps you can take:
- If you drink alcohol – stop
- If you smoke – stop
- If you are overweight, lose weight slowly, with proper guidance and professional help, until you reach your ideal weight. (DON’T go on a crash diet, it will make it worse!)
- Get plenty of exercise
- If you are diabetic, keep it under control with normal glucose levels
- Eat a healthy diet. Avoid fast food and junk foods