The liver is one of our vital organs, responsible for more than 500 functions in the body. Therefore, any complications involving the liver can be far-reaching. Symptoms of a severe stage of fatty liver disease could even appear on the hands, a health body has warned.
As its name implies, fatty liver disease is caused by a build up of excess fat in the liver.
Therefore, the biggest risk for developing the disease is being overweight or obese – especially if the weight mainly accumulates around the waist.
Over time the excess of fat causes the organ to become inflamed, potentially leading to scarring.
In its early stages fatty liver disease often doesn’t present with symptoms meaning it can go undetected.
However, the longer it goes untreated the more inflamed the liver becomes.
This can result in cirrhosis – the most advanced stage of fatty liver disease.
The Mayo Clinic explains: “Cirrhosis is severe scarring of the liver. This serious condition can be caused by many forms of liver diseases and conditions, such as hepatitis or chronic alcoholism.
“Each time your liver is injured — whether by excessive alcohol consumption or another cause, such as infection — it tries to repair itself.
There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing fatty liver disease, including if you:
- Are obese or overweight
- Have type 2 diabetes
- Have a condition that affects how your body uses insulin
- Are insulin resistance, such as polycystic ovary syndrome
- Have an underactive thyroid
- Have high blood pressure
- Have high cholesterol
- Have metabolic syndrome (a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity)
- Are over the age of 50
Therefore, to lower your risk the NHS recommends you:
- Lose weight – you should aim for a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly – at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week
- Stop smoking.
Even though alcohol does not cause fatty liver disease, drinking can make it worse so it is advised you cut back.
If you experience any of the symptoms of cirrhosis you should speak to your GP.