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Fatty liver disease is a condition whereby fat builds up in the cells of your liver. It’s very common, but most people only have a mild form, which doesn’t usually cause long-term problems. However, the condition can cause liver damage in the later stages and this escalation is associated with a slew of sinister symptoms.
As the British Liver Trust (BLT), explains, most people with mild NAFLD are unlikely to notice any symptoms.
“For those who go on to develop NASH, Fibrosis and Cirrhosis it may be many years before symptoms develop,” says the BLT.
If you spot “dark black tarry” poo it may be a sign of a serious development in your liver condition, warns the health body.
Other serious fatty liver disease signs include:
- Yellowness of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
- Bruising easily
- Dark urine
- Swelling of the lower tummy area (ascites)
- Vomiting blood (haematemesis)
- periods of confusion or poor memory (encephalopathy)
- Itching skin (pruritus).
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If you notice any of the above symptoms you should urgently seek medical attention, warns the BLT.
How is fatty liver disease diagnosed?
“You might only find out that you’ve got a problem with your liver when you have a routine medical test or a test for another health condition,” explains Bupa.
According to the health body, this might include a blood test or an ultrasound scan of your abdomen (tummy).
“If one of these tests shows there might be a problem with your liver, your GP will ask if you have any symptoms and examine you,” it adds.
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Am I at risk of fatty liver disease?
Leading an unhealthy lifestyle can raise your risk of developing fatty liver disease.
Specifically, if you’re obese or overweight you are at a far greater risk of fatty liver disease, warns the NHS.
“Particularly if you have a lot of fat around your waist (an ‘Apple-like’ body shape),” explains the health body.
Other risk factors include:
- Have type 2 diabetes
- Have high blood pressure
- Have high cholesterol
- Have metabolic syndrome (a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity)
- Are over the age of 50
How is fatty liver disease treated?
There’s currently no specific medication for fatty liver disease, but making healthy lifestyle choices can help.
As Bupa explains, your doctor will encourage you to make changes to your lifestyle to prevent your condition getting worse.
A healthy, balanced diet is key to managing fatty liver disease and staving off the risk of further complications.
“Choose whole grain carbohydrates (such as breads, rice and pasta) which are high in fibre,” advises Bupa.
You should eat less saturated fat, which is commonly found in fatty cuts of meat and some dairy products.
As Bupa points out, this may help reduce your risk of heart disease which can be linked to NAFLD.
“Replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats or polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids,” advises the health body.
Many of these components are naturally found in a Mediterranean-style diet.
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