Fatty liver disease develops when the liver becomes inflamed due to the presence of excess fat. While thought to be a reversible process early on, fatty liver disease may become chronic and progressive in some individuals. The accumulation of fat can lead to scarring, or fibrosis, and sometimes cirrhosis with all of its complications. This condition may occur in patients who drink little or no alcohol, hence the term nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Obesity, high blood fats, diabetes, hypertension and sleep apnea are some of the key risk factors for NASH.
Fatty Liver Disease Symptoms
As obesity rates continue to rise in the United States, so does the incidence of fatty liver disease. Typically, many patients are unaware of their problem as the symptoms of NASH are subtle. The only signs of fatty liver disease may be a vague discomfort in the right upper quadrant area of your torso, corresponding to the location of the liver.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Fatty Liver Disease
Your hepatologist may employ several diagnostic tools to determine if you are suffering from fatty liver disease. These include blood tests that measure liver function and imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scanning or magnetic resonance imaging. Your physician may also have you undergo a non-invasive FibroScan® exam or liver biopsy to assess the extent of liver scarring, and to help develop a personalized treatment plan for fatty liver disease.
First-line treatment for fatty liver disease involves behavior modification and lifestyle changes. Following a healthy diet combined with regular physical activity has been shown to improve, if not cure, the condition in many patients. At NorthShore, we offer Outpatient Nutritional Therapy and Wellness Services staffed by registered dieticians experienced in assisting patients with effective weight management and nutritional meal planning. Vitamin E supplementation is used with good success in select patients. New medications are currently in Phase 3 clinical trials and are expected to become available soon.
For More Information
For more information on fatty liver disease symptoms and treatment, or to schedule an appointment with one of our hepatologists, please call 847.657.1900.