As with any medical conditions, the sooner you can spot symptoms the better chance there is of getting treated. More well-known signs of fatty liver disease are things such as the yellowing of the skin (jaundice) and abdominal pain. However, there are some less expected signs of the disease that are worth knowing.
According to the Mayo Clinic, having “enlarged” blood vessels just beneath the skin’s surface can signal fatty liver disease.
More specifically it could mean the person has non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, which is an aggressive form of the condition or cirrhosis, which is “advanced” scarring of the liver.
You are advised to make an appointment with your doctor if you experience this, or other symptoms of fatty liver disease.
The clinic explains: “The main complication of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis is cirrhosis, which is late-stage scarring in the liver.
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“Cirrhosis occurs in response to liver injury, such as the inflammation in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.
“As the liver tries to halt inflammation, it produces areas of scarring (fibrosis).
“With continued inflammation, fibrosis spreads to take up more and more liver tissue.”
If this isn’t treated, cirrhosis can lead to:
- Fluid build-up in the abdomen (ascites)
- Swelling of veins in your oesophagus (oesophageal varices), which can rupture and bleed
- Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy)
- Liver cancer
- End-stage liver failure, which means the liver has stopped functioning.
While the cause of fatty liver disease is not exactly known, there are a number of factors that can raise your risk of developing cirrhosis.
- Being overweight or obese
- 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
The Mayo Clinic says: “These combined health problems appear to promote the deposit of fat in the liver.
“For some people, this excess fat acts as a toxin to liver cells, causing liver inflammation and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, which may lead to a build-up of scar tissue in the liver.”
Risk factors for fatty liver disease at any stage include:
- High cholesterol
- High levels of triglycerides in the blood
- Metabolic syndrome
- Obesity, particularly when fat is concentrated in the abdomen
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Sleep apnoea
- Type 2 diabetes
- Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
- Underactive pituitary gland (hypopituitarism).
You are also more likely to develop the disease the older you are.
To reduce your risk it is recommended you eat a healthy and balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight and exercise most days of the week.