Some fat in your liver is normal. But if it makes up more than 5%-10% of the organ's weight, you may have fatty liver disease. If you're a drinker, stop. That's one of the key causes of the condition.
There are two main types of fatty liver disease:
- Alcoholic liver disease (ALD)
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
You can also get fatty liver disease during pregnancy.
Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD)
You can get alcoholic liver disease from drinking lots of alcohol. It can even show up after a short period of heavy drinking.
Genes that are passed down from your parents may also play a role in ALD. They can affect the chances that you become an alcoholic. And they can also have an impact on the way your body breaks down the alcohol you drink.
Other things that may affect your chance of getting ALD are:
- Hepatitis C (which can lead to inflammation in your liver)
- Too much iron in your body
- Being obese
Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
It's not clear what causes this type of fatty liver disease. It tends to run in families.
It's also more likely to happen to those who are middle-aged and overweight or obese. People like that often have high cholesterol and diabetes as well.
Acute Fatty Liver of Pregnancy
It's rare, but fat can build up in your liver when you're pregnant. This could be risky for both you and your baby. It could lead to liver or failure in either of you. It might also cause a serious infection or bleeding.
No one fully understands why fatty liver happens during pregnancy, but hormones may play a role.
Once you get a diagnosis, it's important that your baby gets delivered as soon as possible. Although you may need intensive care for several days, your liver often returns to normal in a few weeks.
Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease
You might have fatty liver disease and not realize it. There are often no symptoms at first. As time goes on, often years or even decades, you can get problems related to chronic liver disease like:
- Feeling tired
- Loss of weight or appetite
- Confusion, poor judgment, or trouble concentrating
You might have some other symptoms, too. Your liver may get larger. You could have a pain in the center or right upper part of your belly.
If you have alcoholic liver disease, you may notice that the symptoms get worse after a period of heavy drinking.
Prevention/treatment of Fatty Liver Disease
There is no specific treatment. But you can improve your condition by managing your diabetes, if you have it.
If you have alcoholic liver disease and you are a heavy drinker, quitting is the most important thing you can do. Talk to your doctor about how to get help. If you don't stop you could get complications like alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis.
Even if you have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, it can help to avoid drinking. If you are overweight or obese, do what you can to gradually lose weight -- no more than 1 or 2 pounds a week.
Eat a balanced and healthy diet and get regular exercise. Limit high-carb foods such as bread, grits, rice, potatoes, and corn. And cut down on drinks with lots of sugar like sports drinks and juice.