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How Dangerous Is Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease & Is It Contagious?

A fatty liver, known as steatosis hepatitis is one of the most common chronic liver diseases where fats are increasingly accumulated in the liver. The fatty liver is usually caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, medications or as a concomitant of other diseases. Although it initially causes a little discomfort, the fatty liver can have serious consequences.1

How Dangerous Is Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

How Dangerous Is Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

A fatty liver itself is not dangerous at first. By using a suitable fatty liver diet you can break down the fats in the liver. If the fatty liver remains unrecognized and untreated for a long time, the liver structure changes. It can cause inflammation (hepatitis) and connective tissues can be formed between the liver cells and scar tissue (liver cirrhosis). In such circumstances, no fatty liver therapy will help you anymore.

Women are slightly more affected than men. Almost all patients are overweight. About every second patient with fatty liver is also diabetic or has elevated blood lipid levels. Besides, fatty liver is often the concomitant of other metabolic syndromes.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a form of fatty liver, which is not caused by chronic alcohol abuse.

In fatty liver, the liver cells store more fat (especially triglycerides) than normal. In a healthy liver, the fat content is usually less than 5%. The severity of the disease depends on the amount of fat stored. To determine the exact extent of fat deposition, a histological examination of liver tissue samples is made.

According to the degree of severity, it is divided into three stages:1,2

  1. Low-grade fatty liver: Less than one-third of liver cells have excess fat
  2. Moderate fatty liver: Less than two-thirds of liver cells but more than one-third of liver cells have excess fat
  3. Severe fatty liver: More than two-thirds of liver cells have excess fat

Fatty liver symptoms are often nonspecific. Some individuals feel pressure in the right upper abdomen or suffer from bloating. However, patients often do not have fatty liver symptoms. Only after disease progression, symptoms occur. Since the disease can have dire consequences, non-specific fatty liver symptoms should also be taken seriously.1

Is Fatty Liver Contagious?

No, fatty liver is a physiological disorder caused by poor lifestyle and is not contagious.

Causes And Risk Factors

The cause of fatty liver is still not very clear. There is a mismatch between calorie intake and calorie consumption that promotes fatty liver formation. Many people with fatty liver are often confronted with the prejudice of drinking too much alcohol. While alcohol may play a role in some cases, non-alcoholic fatty liver is significantly more common overall. It can also occur in people who do not drink alcohol at all.3

Fatty liver patients usually have a high amount of fat in their blood. These fats come from the diet and are absorbed into the blood via the intestine. Anyone who has the suspicion of suffering from a fatty liver should contact his family doctor.

There is no specific medication for fatty liver treatment. You can opt for a healthier lifestyle to get rid of a fatty liver. Reduce weight, have a low-fat diet, perform exercises regularly, keep blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood lipid levels in the normal range. It is suggested to have periodic check-ups once you are detected with a fatty liver.4,5

Prognosis Of The Disease

The prognosis of non-alcoholic fatty liver is better than the alcoholic one. It depends on the time of its discovery as well. Timely treatment can heal the disease completely, as the liver is one of the most regenerative organs. However, if liver cirrhosis develops from fatty liver, severe complications, including liver failure can occur. From liver cirrhosis, the liver can – unlike fatty liver – no longer recover as the liver cells are destroyed and replaced by dysfunctional scar tissue.5


A fatty liver develops when excess fat is deposited in the liver cells. Non-Alcoholic fatty liver disease is related mainly to an unhealthy lifestyle and not due to the overuse of alcohol. There is a minimum initial symptom of the disease and there is no specific treatment except lifestyle changes.


  1. Rinella ME. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a systematic review. Jama. 2015;313(22):2263-2273.
  2. Farrell GC, Larter CZ. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: from steatosis to cirrhosis. Hepatology. 2006;43(S1):S99-S112.
  3. Younossi ZM, Loomba R, Anstee QM, et al. Diagnostic modalities for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, and associated fibrosis. Hepatology. 2018;68(1):349-360.
  4. Stefan N, Häring H-U, Cusi K. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: causes, diagnosis, cardiometabolic consequences, and treatment strategies. The lancet Diabetes & endocrinology. 2019;7(4):313-324.
  5. Chalasani N, Younossi Z, Lavine JE, et al. The diagnosis and management of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: practice guidance from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. Hepatology. 2018;67(1):328-357.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 11, 2019

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