Hepatic Steatosis

Hepatic Steatosis (Fatty Liver Disease)

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Fatty liver disease or fatty liver is a fairly common liver disorder characterized by the accumulation of fatty deposits in the liver. It results from a process in which the cells retain excessive lipids (or fats), particularly in the liver. In most cases, fatty liver disease produces no overt symptoms. Diagnosis of the condition usually results from tests undertaken to identify other problems.

Typically the first stage involves a blood test revealing elevated liver enzymes, followed by the use of medical imaging technology such as ultrasound, CAT scan (computer assisted tomography), or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). The causes of fatty liver disease fall generally into two categories, alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Alcoholic fatty liver disease is liver disease caused by the consumption of excess alcohol. A majority of heavy drinkers will develop some degree of fatty liver disease.

Alcohol abuse can also lead to much more serious liver diseases such as alcoholic hepatitis or alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, and alcoholic fatty liver disease can be an early sign of these diseases (although only some ten to fifteen percent of heavy drinkers actually develop serious liver disease as a consequence of their drinking).

Because of this, among fatty liver causes alcohol abuse is always taken seriously. In addition to which, of course, alcohol abuse often has other serious consequences for health.

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The progress of alcoholic fatty liver disease is not different in any great degree from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (or NAFLD), but the treatment is different and consists initially of a prescription that the patient stop drinking. Fatty liver, regardless of the cause, is a reversible condition and when the cause is corrected the liver will generally repair itself. The treatment for alcoholic fatty liver disease is, of course, cessation of drinking. Unless more than one cause is leading to the condition, this change in lifestyle should be sufficient to reverse the disease.

Additional Causes

The other set of fatty liver causes is simply anything else besides alcohol abuse that is capable of causing the condition. There are a number of possible factors. Obesity, diabetes, and hereditary conditions affecting the metabolism and causing excessive retention of lipids in the cells, are all possible causes of fatty liver disease. In addition, fatty liver disease can manifest as an early stage of non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver.

Once alcoholic fatty liver disease has been ruled out through lifestyle evaluation (alcohol consumption under two drinks per day is considered sufficiently low to rule out alcohol abuse as a cause of the fatty liver condition), the next step is to determine which non-alcoholic cause of fatty liver is present and responsible, and whether other, more serious conditions are present requiring more aggressive treatment. As the non-alcoholic causes of fatty liver are varied, the prognosis and treatment are also varied.

If the cause is obesity, the recommended treatment is a diet and exercise regimen resulting in gradual weight loss. (Too-rapid weight loss can result in a worsening of the liver condition, as well as too easily reversed by following weight gain.) Diabetes can cause fatty liver disease, and as a fatty liver cause other than alcohol abuse is particularly of concern; diabetes causes many health problems aside from disorders of the liver.

If the fatty liver condition arises from a hereditary defect, treatment can be particularly difficult and sometimes more aggressive treatment is required. Antioxidants, insulin sensitisers, and lipid-lowering agents have been found to reduce the occurrence of fatty liver disease. Because fatty liver can lead to more serious liver conditions, aggressive treatments have been found to be of value when lifestyle modification will not suffice to correct the condition.

Fatty Liver Causes

Fatty Liver Disease Explained in 69 Seconds