Friday, August 12, 2011
Fatty Liver Disease
A fatty liver is the condition wherein excess fat builds up in the liver, which happens when a person’s fat intake exceeds the capacity of her or his body to handle it. For a fatty liver, the fat content ought to be at least 5 to 10% of the liver. Once the accumulation of simple fat exceeds a certain level, it makes the liver vulnerable to further injury causing its inflammation and scarring.
Obesity is a common cause of fatty liver. Studies indicate that over 23% of obese persons run the risk of developing fatty liver with inflammation.
What causes fatty liver disease?
Certain nutritional causes of fatty liver are protein malnutrition, starvation, prolonged use of parenteral or intravenous nutrition, rapid weight loss and intestinal bypass surgery for reducing obesity. Certain causes may run concurrent with or cause fatty liver. These are diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance, hypertension and hyperlipidemia (high blood lipid levels). Fatty liver may also be caused by drugs and chemicals such as corticosteroids, alcohol, carbon tetrachloride as also due to genetic factors.
What exactly is NASH?
NASH stands for Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis and is an extreme case of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The harm to the liver is identical to that in alcoholic liver disease but as the name suggests, it occurs in people who may not drink at all or drink minimally. NASH is different from simple accumulation of fat in the liver, which is completely harmless. Upto 20% of adults who exhibit NASH develop cirrhosis and upto 11% may encounter lever-related fatality. In many cases NASH may lead to chronic liver failure and require liver transplantation. NASH affects about 2-6% of the population.
How can fatty liver disease be treated?
Treatment of a fatty liver is related to the cause. Presently there are no tests to detect any likely development of NASH. However, once simple fat starts building up in the liver the liver is prone to further injury leading to inflammation and scarring of the liver.
Obese persons are advised to undergo gradual weight reduction through proper nutrition and exercise. Patients with a high blood pressure and high blood lipid content have to curtail sugar intake and bring down lipid levels. Generally, a low fat, low calorie diet is suggested along with insulin and medications to control blood pressure in diabetic patients.
For patients suffering from NASH but not overweight and not diabetic a low fat diet is recommended. Abstinence from drinking is also suggested to avoid fatty liver disease. Patients of fatty liver disease must visit their physician regularly.
There is presently no known medication for treating fatty liver disease effectively. Fatty liver disease is more commonly seen lately and therefore evoked interest with many clinical trials attempting to seek treatment of fatty liver disease.
Can one prevent fatty liver disease?
One can certainly prevent obesity which is the most common cause of fatty liver disease. This can be done by choosing a healthy diet and lifestyle and regular exercise. One must endeavour for a gradual, not abrupt, weight loss, ensure a balanced diet high on fibre and low on saturated fats, exercise regularly at least 4 times a week and avoid alcohol. These simple habits will go a long way in helping prevent fatty liver disease.