What is fatty liver disease, what are its symptoms and how is it treated?

What is fatty liver disease, what are its symptoms and how is it treated?

This Thursday it became known that the television presenter Terelu Campos suffers from what is known as ‘fatty liver disease’, a common name for hepatic steatosis. It is, by the way, a condition that is estimated to currently affect one in four Spaniards.

What is fatty liver disease?

Hepatic steatosis is nothing more than the accumulation of fat in the liver. There are two types, depending on their cause: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and that due to alcohol consumption, also called alcoholic hepatic steatosis.

Usually the first of the two is little serious and usually does not entail complications; the second, on the other hand, can degenerate into alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosisboth conditions of great severity.

In the case of non-alcoholic hepatic steatosis, the causes are unknownalthough it is known to be more common in people with type 2 diabetes, people who are obese, middle-aged or older, of Hispanic descent, with high blood lipids (cholesterol or triglycerides), with high blood pressure, using certain medications such as corticosteroids, who suffer from metabolic disorders, who lose weight very quickly, who suffer from certain infections such as hepatitis C or who have been exposed to certain toxins.

This form of hepatic steatosis affects almost one in four peopleand its incidence is clearly increasing in developed countries.

For its part, alcoholic fatty liver occurs because, when breaking down alcohol, the liver produces a series of harmful substances. It affects people with a heavy drinkingespecially if it lasts for a long time.

Liver tissue affected by nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

What are your symptoms?

Hepatic steatosis usually has few or no symptoms, which makes its diagnosis difficult until the advanced stages of the condition. When discomfort does occur, it is usually fatigue and discomfort in the upper right side of the abdomen.

The way to identify it at a clinical level goes through a physical examination, an analysis of the patient’s medical history and certain specific tests such as blood tests, imaging, and sometimes biopsy.

Its main complications are, in alcoholic disease, degeneration in alcoholic liver disease or alcoholic hepatitis and in cirrhosis; in the non-alcoholic, on the other hand, the cirrhosis and liver fibrosis (this occurs in between 5 and 12% of cases). These extreme forms can lead to symptoms such as fluid buildup in the abdomen, swelling of the veins in the esophagus, confusion, drowsiness, slurred speech, liver cancer, and end-stage liver failure (permanent cessation of liver function).

Considering its high price, it seems unlikely that most people would incorporate large amounts of saffron into their diet.  However, we cannot fail to point out that this particular spice contains up to 1.7 grams of potassium per 100 grams.

How is it treated?

The first line of treatment is act on the cause, either by reducing alcohol consumption or eliminating risk factors such as obesity. There are no drug treatments, so if the disease continues to progress the only remaining option may be Liver transplant.


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