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Fatty Liver Disease

 

What is it?

 

Fatty liver disease is becoming increasingly common in many parts of the world, It is linked to many other problems including obesity, type II diabetes, more serious liver disease and other health problems.
 
The liver is one of the major abdominal organs and sits on the right side of the abdomen, it has two large sections or lobes aptly named the left and right lobes.
 
The liver has several functions including filtering blood from the digestive tract, secreting bile to go back into the intestines and producing important proteins for blood clotting to name a few. In fact it is thought that the liver has up to 500 seperate functions (in tandem with other organs).
 
Fatty Liver occurs when too much fat builds up in the liver cells. There can be a few reasons that can cause a build up of fat in the liver cells and broadly this is split into two categories alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
 
 
 
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NAFLD is the most common type of liver disease in developed countries. The average age of people who get it is between 40 and 50. Yet children and teenagers are developing NAFLD more now than ever before.
 
In most people, if NAFLD is mild, it doesn’t cause any serious liver-related health problems. But it can sometimes damage your liver if it’s severe.
 
 
 

What are the symptoms?

 

NAFLD may not present with any symptoms in the early stages, often it is discovered as part of a routine upper abdomen ultrasound scan. However in further stages can include the following:
 
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Slight pain or fullness in the abdominal area
  • Elevated levels of liver enzymes, including AST and ALT
  • Elevated insulin levels
  • Elevated triglyceride levels
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Moderate to severe abdominal pain
  • Yellowing of eyes and skin

 

 

 

How can Fatty Liver be diagnosed?

 

As mentioned, fatty liver may or may not present any symptoms so care and attention should always be paid to your health and if you have any concerns or do not feel well then a visit to your GP is always recommended.

 

Taking a proactive stance with your health is always a good thing and the gold standard non-invasive method of detecting a fatty liver is by having an ultrasound scan. At the scan clinic we can do this by itself as part of the Upper abdomen scan or as part of our proactive health checks - the Wellman health check for men and the Wellwoman health check for women.

 
Another diagnostic tool that is often used in combination is a blood test to check liver function and to check your blood cell count - both of these are available in our general blood test
 
 
 
 

What can I do if I have fatty liver?

 

If you have had a scan and blood test and this has showed fatty liver then there is no specific treatment, medication or therapy for NAFLD, however do not despair there are steps you can take to help manage the situation before it worsens.

 

The biggest step you can take to help the situation is make changes to your lifestyle. Identify the points of your diet that have high fat content and make changes to limit or cut these out. If you drink alcohol, then limit your intake to the national recommend limits and seek professional help if you are finding it difficult to cut down your alcohol intake.

 

 

Exercise is the next big step you can take; studies have shown exercise reduces liver fat content. If you have not had done much exercise in the past then make sure you do this safely and take on a personal trainer even if this is to help you get started so that you know how to perform exercises properly without the risk of injuring yourself.

 

 

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The advice above is important to take on board as ignoring the results and continuing an unhealthy lifestyle can lead to more serious liver problems and to a potential situation whereby the liver is unable to heal.

 

In all circumstances it's important to get medical advice from your GP/ Health care professional on what actions/steps to take.