How Does Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Affect The Body & What Triggers It?

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease refers to a fatty liver disease, which does not have any relation with the heavy intake or use of alcohol. These are of two different types-

  • Simple fatty liver, where a person has fat in the liver with almost no inflammation or damage to the liver cells.
  • Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, where a patient has inflammation and damage related to his/her liver cell, along with the accumulation of fat in his/her liver. (1)

How Does Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Affect The Body?

How Does Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Affect The Body?

In most cases related to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a patient does not have any noticeable symptoms. However, when the symptoms remain present, they are-

However, if your condition progresses to cirrhosis, you may have additional symptoms, such as-

  • Internal bleeding
  • Mental confusion
  • Liver malfunction
  • Retention of fluid (2)

Adverse Effects/Complications Of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Cirrhosis is the major complication of both nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. However, to understand this in detail, we will discuss the functions of the human liver first and accordingly-

  • To produce a liquid substance called bile, which breaks down the fat components and removes waste materials from your body
  • To metabolize the toxins and other medications
  • To balance fluid levels in your body via adequate protein production
  • To process hemoglobin and store iron
  • To convert ammonia in the blood to relatively harmless urea to allow easy excretion
  • To store and release sugar/glucose as per your energy requirements
  • To produce cholesterol only in certain amounts to make sure about good cellular health
  • To remove the harmful bacteria from your blood
  • To produce certain immune factors for fighting with infections
  • To regulate the clotting of blood (3)

Now, if the nonalcoholic fatty liver problem in a person causes cirrhosis, his/her liver intends to halt the inflammation and thereby, produces various fibrosis/scarring areas. When the inflammation continues, fibrosis spreads to occupy more and more tissues of his/her liver. Moreover, if fibrosis proceeds further, cirrhosis may result in various other complications-

  • Formation of fluid in the ascites i.e. abdominal region
  • Veins swelling in the esophageal varices/esophagus, which causes rapturing of the blood
  • Hepatic encephalopathy i.e. drowsiness, confusion and slurry speech
  • Liver cancer
  • Permanent or end-stage of liver failure (4)

What Triggers Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

Until now, doctors have failed to find the exact cause, for which only a few people experience the fat accumulation in their liver, while others not. Moreover, experts have limited understanding of the progression of fatty liver inflammation to cirrhosis. However, in general, nonalcoholic fatty liver has a relationship with-

  • Obesity or overweight
  • Resistance to insulin, where your body cells fail to take up glucose components to respond to the insulin hormone
  • Hyperglycemia i.e. high blood sugar, which indicates type 2 diabetes or prediabetes
  • High-fat levels, especially the presence of triglycerides in your blood

The combination of the mentioned health problems promotes the deposition of fat in your liver. For some individuals, the excessive fat acts as toxins for liver cells to cause further complications or formation of scar tissues in your liver. (4)

Other Diseases To Trigger Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Besides the mentioned causes, you will find various other health conditions and/or diseases to increase your risk related to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. These include-

  • Presence of triglycerides in high levels in your blood
  • High level of cholesterol in your body
  • Metabolic syndromes
  • Obesity or overweight condition, which causes the accumulation of fat in the abdominal area/region
  • Syndromes related to polycystic ovary
  • Sleeping disorders, including the problem of insomnia and sleep apnea
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Underactive pituitary glands i.e. hypopituitarism
  • Underactive thyroid i.e. hypothyroidism (4)

Conclusion

Nonalcoholic fatty liver if left untreated, it leads to cirrhosis.

Reference Links: –

  1. https://medlineplus.gov/fattyliverdisease.html
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease#symptoms
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease#complications
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354567

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