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What Are the Symptoms of Fatty Liver?

Several types of liver disease, including hepatic steatosis (fatty liver).
Because the liver filters toxins and waste from the blood, if the organ fails to work properly a person can become seriously ill.
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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2014
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Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease usually causes no noticeable symptoms in the majority of patients, as this condition is usually discovered during routine medical checkups. When there are symptoms present, they tend to include pain in the right upper stomach area, fatigue, and weight loss that occurs for no apparent reason. Most people experience no complications due to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, but nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and cirrhosis are two more severe forms of this condition that can lead to major liver issues. Most doctors try to determine the cause of the disease so that they can treat the underlying issue, as there are no specific treatments for fatty liver disease itself.

While fat generally is not supposed to accumulate on the liver, this issue is not usually harmful in otherwise healthy patients. This is likely why most people do not have any symptoms of fatty liver, as their body is not bothered by the issue. When the body is irritated by it, fatigue and weight loss often ensue, but these symptoms of fatty liver are usually not noticed, or are attributed to other causes. The one symptom that usually prompts people to see a doctor is dull pain in the upper right stomach area. It usually comes and goes, causing many people to wait to see a doctor until the pain is severe.

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The typical form of fatty liver disease may not be especially harmful, but there are two other types that may lead to health problems. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis may occur when fatty liver disease causes inflammation of the liver, often leading to poor function and occasionally other complications in the long run. Additionally, this can escalate to cirrhosis that is associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, as inflammation may cause scarring that eventually results in liver failure. Considering that most people get few, if any, symptoms of fatty liver, detection sometimes comes too late to save the liver.

Despite the lack of symptoms of fatty liver in most cases, some people are more at risk for this disease than others, causing their doctors to check for the issue during routine medical appointments. For example, those who are obese, have high cholesterol, or have had gastric bypass surgery are usually more likely to get this condition than most people. Type 2 diabetes, malnutrition, excessive weight loss, Wilson's disease, and some medications can also put people at risk for fatty liver disease. Whether or not such people experience symptoms of fatty liver, it is important for them to occasionally be examined for this issue.

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