Steatosis of liver or Fatty Liver is a medical condition where large amounts of fats accumulate in the liver cells. Steatosis of liver usually occurs to those who drink excess alcohol and those who are obese. Studies have indicated that over 70% obese people suffer from steatosis of liver. It is normal for a person to have some fat deposit in the liver, but if the fat is more than 5%-10% of the liver weight, this condition is referred to as Steatosis of liver. Usually steatosis of liver or fatty liver is a reversible medical condition and does not cause any permanent damage.

Causes and Risk Factors of Steatosis of Liver

What is Steatosis of Liver?

The buildup of fat around the liver cells is referred to as steatosis of liver. If detected and treated in time, steatosis of liver can be easily cured. This condition can be either temporary or a long run condition, which can lead to other problems. The liver is the second largest organ in the body and it is responsible for changing the fats consumed into a specific type that can be stored and used by the body. Excess of fat deposition in the liver due to increased intake of alcohol and some other factors can disrupt this process. Steatosis of liver is not a painful condition and can go undetected for a long time.

What are the Symptoms of Steatosis of Liver?

Usually the symptoms of steatosis of liver are not visible and thus in many cases patients do not realize that they have the condition. The symptoms can be usually seen after a long time, it can be months and in some cases years. Some of the common symptoms of steatosis of liver can include –

  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of weight
  • Poor judgment
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain in upper belly
  • Trouble in concentration.

The most common reason for which patients seek doctor's advice is due to fatigue and abdominal discomfort. Steatosis of liver is usually diagnosed when the doctor recommends further tests due to the mentioned symptoms.

Epidemiology of Steatosis of Liver

There is a huge difference observed in the study of steatosis of liver done in various countries. In some countries, the prevalence of steatosis of liver in general population ranges from 10% to 20%. In Europe, over 20% of general population and more than 5% of pediatric population suffer from Steatosis of liver. Fatty liver can be seen in more than 70% of obese people, of which around 30% progress to Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). In many countries including the US, Steatosis of liver is recognized as the most common chronic liver disease. Fatty liver disease or steatosis of liver is seen in about 30% of European Americans, 20% of African-Americans and around 45% of Hispanic-Americans.

Causes and Risk Factors of Steatosis of Liver

The most common cause of steatosis of liver is alcohol. However, this condition can also occur due to metabolic syndromes like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and dyslipidemia. Some of the common cause for steatosis of liver includes -

  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Quick weight loss
  • Genetic Inheritance
  • Side effect of certain medications.

Fatty liver occurs when the body creates excess fat or cannot metabolize it fast enough. There are some underlying factors that can also cause steatosis of liver. This includes insulin resistance and tendency to lipolysis of peripheral fat. Having the causal factors present viz., obesity, the person has a higher probability and risk of having steatosis of liver.

Pathophysiology of Steatosis of Liver

Steatosis of liver is found to be the most common cause for liver test evaluation. In many clinical practices it is identified that liver biopsy assessment is the only means for diagnosing fatty liver disease. This is because laboratory tests and imaging studies cannot provide complete information related to liver cell injury and amount of steatosis etc. In the early stage liver cells are filled with fat droplets which do not move the centrally located nucleus. In the later stages, the size increases and it pushes the nucleus to the periphery of the cells. Liver disease along with extensive swelling and a high amount of steatosis often grows to more serious forms of fatty liver disease.

Diagnosis of Steatosis of Liver

As mentioned earlier, most patients with steatosis of liver are asymptotic. Most of the diagnosis happens when patients complain about abnormal liver functions or during tests done for some unrelated medical conditions. Through physical exam, a doctor can detect if the patient's liver is inflamed or not. Patients must report to the doctors all symptoms that they experience, so that the disease is diagnosed in time. Blood test can find out if there are any higher levels of enzyme, but this does not confirm the presence of fatty liver disease. Further analysis like ultrasound, CT scan and MRI scan can help in detecting the presence of excess fat in the liver.

Liver biopsy is the most certain method of detecting steatosis of liver. For doing Liver biopsy, the doctor put a needle and removes a piece of tissue from the liver for further examination. Done under local anesthesia, liver biopsy is a certain way of knowing if a person has liver fat or not. The biopsy also helps in determining the exact cause of steatosis of liver.

Treatment of Steatosis of Liver

There are no specific medicines or surgical procedure to treat steatosis of liver. After knowing the exact cause for the disease, doctors prescribe patients to reduce the risk factors. Some of the risk facts that doctors ask patients to take care of include –

  • Controlling blood sugar
  • Reducing excess weight
  • Limiting or avoiding alcohol
  • Managing cholesterol levels.

Doctors can suggest workout and change in diet to reduce weight for some patients. Reducing the amount of daily calorie intake is a good way to reduce weight and the chances of suffering from various diseases. Eliminating fried food and food containing high amounts of sugar is a good way of reducing fat from diet.

Prevention of Steatosis of Liver

Protecting the liver is the simplest way of preventing steatosis of liver. Patients who are at high risk can consult the doctor regularly and follow the exercise and diet routine prescribed for them. Those at risk must get their health monitored regularly so that fatty liver disease can be diagnosed early. Those who suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure must take their medicines as directed and constantly get their cholesterol and sugar levels examined. Those who drink alcohol heavily must reduce or stop drinking to keep their liver in a healthy condition. Regular workout to reduce weight and keeping fit is a good way of preventing steatosis of liver.

Diet for Steatosis of Liver

Fruits and vegetables supply a wide range of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals that boost up the body's immune system. Including them in the food and making some changes in the diet is a simple way of reducing the chances or symptoms of steatosis of liver. Whole grains are a great source of dietary fiber, minerals and antioxidants which help in preventing steatosis of liver. Varieties of whole grain that one can eat include -

  • Oats
  • Rye
  • Bulgur
  • Barley
  • White Rice
  • Brown Rice.

Unsaturated fats that are found in nuts, vegetable oils and seeds are great not only for the liver but also for overall physical health. However, one must avoid saturated fats and trans fats found in deep fried food and red meat.

Steatosis of liver can be easily prevented and managed with simple and careful change made to the lifestyle and dietary habits. If not managed on time, it can lead to various chronic health conditions.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: May 4, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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