Liver Health: 8 Myths About Fatty Liver Debunked By Expert
Liver health: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an umbrella term for a range of liver conditions affecting people who drink little to no alcohol. The main cause is too much fat stored in liver cells.
Liver health: Obesity is one of the risk factors for fatty liver
- Maintaining a healthy weight may help reduce the risk of fatty liver
- Abdominal swelling and pain can be signs of fatty liver
- Obesity increases the risk of fatty liver disease
Fatty liver is accumulation of excessive fat in the liver. This excess fat can induce inflammation in the liver, a condition called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH can further progress into liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. In many cases, there are no noticeable symptoms of fatty liver. While, advanced cases can lead to symptoms like abdominal swelling, enlarged blood vessels, yellowing of skin, fatigue and discomfort in upper right abdomen. In this article, here are some myths about fatty liver you shouldn't believe.
These are the common myths about fatty liver:
1. Only alcoholics develop fatty liver
Anybody can develop fatty liver however, it's more common amongst alcoholics. Apart from alcohol, causes of fatty liver are being overweight, obesity, unhealthy diet, medications, high cholesterol, diabetes, thyroid disorders and sometimes genetic.
2. Only obese people develop fatty liver
As mentioned, obesity is one of the risk factors. Even lean people can develop fatty liver, a condition called 'lean NASH'.
3. Fatty liver is disease of west, not common in India
Incidence of fatty liver is increasing worldwide and in India too. Approximately 30% of Indians have fatty liver.
4. Wine and beer are safer than whiskey
It's the quantity of alcohol which harms liver. Some type of alcohol does not matter. It is like mixing water to poison and drinking it! Alcohol shouldn't be consumed amongst people with fatty liver.
5. Fatty liver is not a big deal
Up to 30% of patients with fatty liver can have progressive liver disease and may end up with irreversible condition called liver cirrhosis. Also, fatty liver is associated with other metabolic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, cancer, obesity and others.
6. Fatty liver is irreversible
Once there is fatty liver, some of them can progress to next stages called NASH (Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis) and later to cirrhosis. Only cirrhosis is irreversible. Fatty liver/ NASH is reversible with lifestyle modifications and medications. However, liver transplant may be the only curative option for liver cirrhosis.
7. There is no treatment for fatty liver
Lifestyle modification is the most important way of managing fatty liver. Weight reduction, exercise, healthy diet, control of blood sugar and cholesterol plays the most important role. There are various medications available as well.
8. No need to meet liver specialist.
Most of the patients do well with lifestyle modifications. However, some of them require special tests like liver function tests, fibroscan and rarely liver biopsy. Need of medications may depend upon above results. Some may require frequent monitoring of the tests. Patients with liver cirrhosis may end up with liver transplant as well. Hence it's prudent to meet Gastroenterologist or hepatologist once.
(Dr. Adarsh CK, Chief Consultant, Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital)
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