Fatty Liver Disease Overview

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a condition in which fat accumulates within the liver. This process is know as steatosis. Accumulation of fat may cause progressive inflammation of the liver or steatohepatitis. If left untreated, chronic liver disease or cirrhosis may occur. Fatty liver disease is seen in patients suffering from obesity, elevated cholesterol or diabetes. The disease is also commonly associated with the use of certain medications.

Most patients with fatty liver disease have no symptoms. The diagnosis is often entertained when blood tests reveal an elevation in the blood liver enzymes. Patients may have liver enlargement. If cirrhosis develops, patients may experience symptoms associated with its complications, such as confusion, abdominal swelling or gastrointestinal bleeding.

Appropriate studies are then performed to exclude other potential causes of liver disease. On ultrasound, the liver is often noted to be bright or echogenic due to fat deposition within the liver. A liver biopsy may be performed to determine if inflammation or scarring has occurred.

There is no specific treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Patients are encouraged to maintain ideal body weight, avoid alcohol consumption, control cholesterol and triglycerides elevation and aggressively treat underlying diabetes mellitus.