Fatty liver disease symptoms: Two types of pain near your ribs can be a serious sign27/09/2021
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Fatty liver disease is an umbrella term for an accumulation of fat in the liver. One of the most common types is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). It’s usually seen in people who are overweight or obese.
The condition is highly pernicious because it can lead to liver failure yet it is marked by an absence of symptoms in the beginning.
It’s estimated up to one in every three people in the UK has early stages of NAFLD, where there are small amounts of fat in their liver.
However, as the condition advances, it can cause the body to undergo more sinister changes.
According to the Paddington Green Health Centre, people with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) or fibrosis (more advanced stages of NAFLD) may experience a dull or aching pain over the lower right side of the ribs.
Other advanced signs include:
- Extreme tiredness
- Unexplained weight loss
“If cirrhosis (the most advanced stage) develops, you can get more severe symptoms, such as yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice), itchy skin; and swelling in the legs; ankles; feet or tummy (oedema),” warns Paddington Green Health Centre.
Cirrhosis is scarring (fibrosis) of the liver caused by long-term liver damage.
To ward off the threat of late-stage complications, it is vital to get tested for fatty liver disease.
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According to the NHS, NAFLD is often diagnosed after a blood test called a liver function test produces an abnormal result and other liver conditions, such as hepatitis, are ruled out.
But blood tests do not always pick up NAFLD.
As the NHS explains, the condition may also be spotted during an ultrasound scan of your tummy.
This is a type of scan where sound waves are used to create an image of the inside of your body.
“If you’re diagnosed with NAFLD, further tests may be needed to determine which stage you have,” adds the NHS.
Am I at risk?
Experts don’t know exactly why some people accumulate fat in the liver while others do not.
Similarly, there is limited understanding of why some fatty livers develop inflammation that progresses to cirrhosis.
However, the complication has been linked to a number of chronic disease markers.
According to the Mayo Clinic, NAFLD and NASH are both linked to the following:
- Overweight or obesity
- Insulin resistance, in which your cells don’t take up sugar in response to the hormone insulin
- High blood sugar (hyperglycaemia), indicating prediabetes or type 2 diabetes
- High levels of fats, particularly triglycerides, in the blood.
“These combined health problems appear to promote the deposit of fat in the liver,” explains the Mayo Clinic.
“For some people, this excess fat acts as a toxin to liver cells, causing liver inflammation and NASH, which may lead to a buildup of scar tissue in the liver.”
A wide range of diseases and conditions can increase your risk of NAFLD, including high cholesterol, it adds.
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