8 Signs of Fatty Liver Disease: Watch Out
Admit it, you like to drink. Whether it’s celebrating your birthday or someone else’s, promotion, or whatever success in life, alcohol will always be present. In fact, 86.3 percent of Americans 18 years old and above drank alcohol at one point in their life (1).
Drinking alcohol is fine. The issue lies in how you use it.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 14.4 million adults had Alcohol Use Disorder (2). Worse, more than 83 thousand deaths were due to liver disease caused by alcohol (3).
Still, being a non-drinker does not exempt you from fatty liver disease. You could still have fatty liver and not know about it – yet.
In this article, you will:
- Learn more about what fatty liver disease is.
- Be familiar with the different signs and symptoms of this condition.
- Get to know simple lifestyle changes to address this liver condition.
Before Everything Else, Get To Know Fatty Liver Disease First
Did you know that the liver is the biggest organ in the body? Believe it or not, it is and it comes with crucial functions such as digesting food, removing poison inside the body, and storing energy.
Fatty liver disease is a condition characterized by extra fat buildup in the liver. According to Harvard Medical School, 20 to 40 percent of Americans have this condition (4). Still, take note that fatty liver disease is not related to one’s drinking and alcohol use.
Fatty liver disease, especially the non-alcoholic branch, has two main groups:
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) or simply known as fatty liver and does not cause an illness related to liver.
- Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which may cause inflammation and injury to liver cells. This could also lead to a more serious condition like fibrosis of the liver and cirrhosis.
Here’s the surprising part: fatty liver disease often goes undetected. Oftentimes, a person will discover this condition during imaging study like MRI or abdominal ultrasound.
Still, don’t wait for that day to come. Below are the symptoms you need to watch out for:
1. That Painful Feeling In The Upper Right Abdomen Is Among The Signs To Watch Out For
This is the first and most noticeable sign of fatty liver disease.
Keep in mind that the liver is located in the upper right part of your abdomen or belly. It is beneath your diaphragm and right kidney, on top of the stomach, and intestines.
This is why when you feel pain or discomfort on the upper right abdomen or over the lower right side of the rib only, then it is possible that you have fatty liver disease.
- Pain or discomfort in the upper right abdomen is the first sign of fatty liver disease
- Pay attention to any form of discomfort on the lower right side of the rib as well
2. You Feel Extremely Tired
Tiredness or weakness could mean many things. It could be due to stress, strenuous activities, and even a sign of fatty liver disease.
Usually, you feel exhausted, which results in delayed or slow movement. Sometimes, you might feel muscle twitching or muscle cramps that you wouldn’t think that you’re already experiencing fatty liver disease.
But if you feel extremely tired along with the other signs and symptoms mentioned in this article, then it could possibly be due to fatty liver condition.
- Extreme tiredness is among the symptoms of fatty liver disease
- Tiredness or fatigue must be accompanied by other signs to be mentioned to qualify as fatty liver disease
3. Unexplained Weight Loss That Lowered Your BMI
Who doesn’t want to lose weight and get that recommended BMI? Surely, everyone will willingly do whatever it takes just to get rid of unwanted pounds.
The biggest question is how to get rid of those excess pounds safely.
Unintentional weight loss may be a result of an underlying medical condition, including fatty liver disease. It may also be accompanied with loss of appetite. This must be addressed as soon as possible or else, it could lead to malnutrition.
- Unexplained weight loss is one of the signs of fatty liver condition
- It must also be accompanied with loss of appetite as well as other symptoms enumerated in the article
4. Oh No, You’re Turning Yellow
You might think that yellowing of the skin, also known as jaundice, is only for newborns. Apparently, even adults, especially those with fatty liver, may experience this symptom as well.
The yellowing of the skin and the white part of the eyes is one of your body’s ways of saying that fatty liver disease might be on the advanced stage.
Although jaundice itself is not a disease, it is among the symptoms of many underlying diseases. In terms of fatty liver disease, you might notice that your eyes and skin are starting to get yellow and no amount of sunlight could bring back your original color.
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin is medically referred to as jaundice
- Jaundice is among the signs of fatty liver disease
- Jaundice is a sign that fatty liver disease is on the advanced stage
5. Abdominal Swelling Is Connected To Fatty Liver Disease
Pain and discomfort in the right side of your abdominal area is among the signs and symptoms of this condition. If left untreated, then it could lead to swelling or a condition called ascites.
Ascites happens when the liver is not functioning properly (5). Fluid starts to fill the space between the organs and abdominal lining; hence abdominal swelling. Liver scarring or fatty liver condition often causes this.
It is hard to detect swelling simply by looking at it. If you notice swollen abdomen, difficulty breathing while lying down, bloating, and heartburn, then schedule a trip to the doctor. You might be asked to go through several tests to see the cause of distention.
- The medical term for abdominal swelling is ascites
- This happens when fluid fills the gap between the organs and abdominal lining as a result of fatty liver disease
- Pay attention to the physical appearance of the abdomen to determine if there is swelling
6. Symptoms To Watch Out For: Can’t Stop The Itch
Feeling the need to scratch is fine, especially when the cause is obvious. At times, irritants affect the skin and cause you to itch. The problem is when you always feel the urge but you cannot identify what’s causing it.
Worse, itching is severe and you experience other symptoms along with it.
In that case, it could be fatty liver disease, especially when itching comes with any of the symptoms mentioned above.
- Watch out for itchy skin, especially when accompanied by the other symptoms of fatty liver disease
- To qualify as fatty liver disease, itching must be severe and the underlying cause is unknown
7. Then, There Are Web-Looking Clusters Under Your Skin
Did you notice any spider-looking veins on your skin? Don’t panic – yet.
Known as spider nevus or nevi, if plural, these spider veins are dilated blood vessels that are clustered too close to the surface of your skin. It is often caused by sun exposure, hormonal changes, injuries, and even liver condition.
What makes this spider veins alarming?
Multiple clusters of spider-like veins should cause an alarm already. More so, if you feel tired, weak, and bloated, then it is best to see a hepatologist or gastroenterologist. These are signs of fatty liver and must be treated immediately.
- Spider nevi are spider-looking veins that appear on the surface of the skin
- To qualify as a possible liver condition, spider veins must be in multiple clusters
- Other signs and symptoms mentioned above must be experienced as well
8. For The Men: Breast Enlargement
Yes, you read that right. Even men could develop breasts, although some will have breast enlargement.
Medically, gynecomastia is a condition resulting from increased breast gland tissue. It may be due to side effects of medications, hormonal changes, and even fatty liver disease.
The good news is that gynecomastia may come and go even without treatment. Nonetheless, it would’ve been a different if breast enlargement is accompanied by any of the symptoms above.
In that case, it’s time to see a doctor to help treat not just the fatty liver disease but also breast enlargement.
- Gynecomastia is the medical term for breast enlargement
- Breast enlargement plus other signs and symptoms is a sign of a liver condition
As of this writing, there is no definitive treatment for fatty liver disease. Nonetheless, there are certain things you can do to reduce the possibility of experiencing these signs and symptoms.
It will help if you:
- Lose weight safely, preferably one to two pounds every week
- Limit, if not avoid alcohol intake
- Eat healthy and balanced diet to reduce your BMI to recommended level
- Increase your physical activity
Don’t worry. It’s not too late to change the situation. If you experienced any of the symptoms above, then don’t hesitate to consult a doctor as early as now before it’s too late.