Fatty Liver Disease Most of us take liver for granted yet thousands of people all over the world suffer when excess of fat builds in it causing “Fatty Liver Disease”. If untreated it will lead to liver failure progressing to a fatal outcome. Many do not realise they have potential problem as there are no symptoms for a long time. Types of Fatty Liver: 1 . Non-alcoholic fatty liver 2 . Alcoholic Fatty Liver Non-alcoholic fatty Liver: Excessive intake of fried food and fatty diet for a prolonged period can lead to a fatty liver. Obesity may also contribute to fatty liver. Many with fatty liver have increased triglycerides and may also be diabetic. Occasionally autoimmune disease, malnutrition, certain drugs and viral hepatitis can lead to the condition. Alcoholic Fatty Liver: Excessive intake of alcohol is the commonest cause of fatty liver. In the USA it is estimated that 15 million people consume excessive alcohol and almost all of them -- 90% to 100% -- develop fatty livers. Symptoms: In the early stages you may have no symptoms. As the disease progresses you may develop discomfort in the right upper part of abdomen. Loss of appetite and tiredness may develop soon. Towards the end a condition called cirrhosis when the liver is scarred and becomes hard. At this stage you may experience itching, skin bruises, muscle weakness, vomiting blood and may become jaundiced. Ultimately ascites results when the abdomen gets filled with fluid. If you suffer from loss of appetite, feeling lethargic, lost a lot a weight without a reason, notice a changed colour of urine or stools you must seek urgent medical advice and must have your liver checked. Tests to make sure you have a healthy Liver: If you lead a healthy life style, eating the right kind of food and not overindulging in alcohol you will probably have nothing to worry about. Still as part of a routine health check you must have your liver checked now and again. Anyone over the age of 50 should have a test to confirm that the liver is functioning normally. If you are obese, consume a large amount of alcohol or you are on regular medication for some other condition you must have a test at least once a year. Liver Function Tests: If you have no symptoms but would like to have your liver checked as part of a routine health check all that you will need is a simple blood test to check for the levels of protein, various pigments and enzymes associated with the liver. The enzymes released into blood by the damaged liver will begin to rise and the levels of proteins (albumin and Globulin) that the liver produces begin to drop. The test checks for the following: bilirubin, albumin, globulin, total protein, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), alanine transferase (ALT) and aspartate transferase (AST). Other Investigations: Apart from the Liver Function Test, blood should also be checked for cholesterol, triglycerides and sugar. These tests are done before you have had anything to eat or drink, atleast six hours after your last meal. If the blood tests suggest possible involvement of liver you may need additional tests like an ultra sound, CT and MRI scan. If the scan suggests that the liver is affected or enlarged and you have significant symptoms your doctor may then request biopsy of the liver that is done under a local anaesthetic using a needle. Prevention: Preventing liver disease is as simple as not overindulging in alcohol and not eating a diet high in fat or calories. If you have non-alcoholic liver disease, there is no specific treatment for it. But it can be corrected by losing weight and changing the diet if you are obese, treating other conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol/triglycerides and under-performing thyroid. Remember, unlike any other organ in the body the liver can repair and rejuvenate itself very quickly if you give it a chance and act promptly. K.Badrinath
Information for the General Public