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The Different Stages of Cirrhosis and Its Treatment Options

The Different Stages of Cirrhosis and Its Treatment Options

 What is Cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis is a disease that affects the liver.

The liver is responsible for a variety of tasks in the body, including filtering toxins from the blood and producing bile to help digest food.

When the liver is damaged, it can no longer perform these tasks effectively.
This can lead to a number of health problems, including cirrhosis.

There are several different stages of cirrhosis. The earlier stages may not cause any symptoms, but as the disease progresses, symptoms can include fatigue, nausea, weight loss, and yellowing of the skin and eyes.

Cirrhosis can eventually lead to liver failure and death. There is no cure for cirrhosis, but there are treatments available that can help improve your diagnosis.

In this article we will touch some of the most important facts about cirrhosis and what you need to know.

What Causes Cirrhosis


The main cause of cirrhosis is long-term damage to the liver.

This can be caused by a number of things that includes the following:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Hepatitis B & C
  • Genetics
  • Underlying autoimmune disease
  • Obesity
  • Poor diet or lifestyle

What Are the Different Stages of Cirrhosis?

 

There are four different stages of cirrhosis, and the treatment options vary depending on the stage of cirrhosis.

Stage 1:  Inflammation

In this early stage, your liver becomes enlarged or inflamed. Many people with liver inflammation don’t experience symptoms. If the inflammation continues, permanent damage can occur.

Stage 2:  Fibrosis

Fibrosis is often the result of an inflamed liver that begins to scar. The scar tissue that is generated in this stage can take the place of healthy liver tissue, yet the scarred tissue cannot perform the same functions. This can start to affect your liver’s ability to function optimally. Fibrosis can be difficult to detect, but early diagnosis and treatment is important for preventing further damage.

Stage 3:  Cirrhosis

In the cirrhosis stage, severe scarring has built up on your liver. Because there’s less healthy liver tissue, it becomes very difficult for your liver to function properly. You may now begin to experience symptoms of liver disease.

Stage 4:  Liver Failure

Liver failure is the term used to describe the complete stoppage of liver function. This is the final stage of many diseases, and at this point the liver cannot be repaired itself or with treatments. The only option for recovery is a liver transplant.

cirrhosis_treatment

 

Symptoms of Cirrhosis

 

The symptoms of cirrhosis vary depending on the stage of the disease.

In the early stages, there may be few or no symptoms. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include:

 

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice
  • Mental confusion

 

Treatment Options


There are a variety of treatments available for those suffering from liver failure. One common treatment approach is to address the underlying cause of liver damage.

For example, antiviral medications can be used to treat a viral hepatitis infection, or immune suppressing medication can be given to treat autoimmune hepatitis.

In the early stages, treatment may involve changes to your diet and lifestyle, such as reducing alcohol consumption and losing weight.

The American Liver Foundation reports that damage from the inflammation and fibrosis stages of liver failure may be reversible and healed over time (if properly identified and treated). The liver damage caused by cirrhosis, while often not reversible, can at least be slowed or stopped.

cirrhosis_treatment_options

 

Lifestyle Changes and Diet

 

There are many foods that can help people with cirrhosis. Some of these foods include fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains.

It is important for people with cirrhosis to talk to a doctor before making any changes to their diet.

 

Top 5 Foods for Cirrhosis

 

  1. Kale

Kale is a leafy green vegetable that is packed with nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals like potassium and magnesium. All these nutrients are important for supporting liver health.

  1. Potatoes

Potatoes are a good source of dietary fiber, which can help to improve digestion and reduce the risk of constipation. They are also a good source of potassium, an important mineral for the health of the liver. Potatoes can help to improve cirrhosis by helping to keep the liver healthy and functioning properly.

  1. Plantains

The plantain is a crop from the genus Musa. Its fruits are edible and are generally used for cooking. This is different from the soft and sweet banana (which is often called dessert banana). … Dessert bananas are often eaten raw; plantains are usually cooked or otherwise processed before they are eaten.  Plantains are a great food to eat if you have cirrhosis. They are high in potassium and magnesium, which can help to improve liver function. Plantains are also a good source of antioxidants, which can help to protect the liver from damage.

2.  Avocados

Avocados are a great food to eat if you have cirrhosis. They are a good source of healthy monounsaturated fats, which can help improve your liver function. Avocados are also a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamins C and E, all of which can be beneficial for people with cirrhosis. Try adding avocado to your diet in place of other unhealthy fats.

1.  Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a great source of antioxidants, which can help protect the liver from damage. They are also a good source of vitamin C, which can help improve liver function. Additionally, tomatoes are a good source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that can help protect the liver from damage.

cirrhosis_prevention

 

How Does Cirrhosis Affect the Body and the Mind?

 

Cirrhosis is a debilitating, life-threatening condition that affects millions of people around the world.
In the early stages of cirrhosis, patients may not experience any symptoms.

However, as the disease progresses, patients may experience a wide range of symptoms that can affect their body and mind.

Although cirrhosis of the liver has a devastating effect on the liver, which is the main organ that it affects directly, there are potentially a lot of other side effects of cirrhosis. Liver disease is also associated with depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.

We can’t forget that cirrhosis is also linked to fatigue, insomnia and cognitive disorders such as dementia, too.
 

Alternative Therapies for Cirrhosis

 

Alternative therapies include treatments that are not typically used in conventional medicine, such as acupuncture, herbal remedies, and meditation.

Some people may find that a specific therapy works better for them than others.

The most important part is to find a therapy that you can stick to and that is safe for you. Some people may find that dietary changes help them manage their liver cirrhosis.

Others may find that supplements help them feel better. Some people may find that they need to see a therapist to help them deal with the emotions that come with having liver cirrhosis.

Whatever therapy you decide to try, it is important to talk to your doctor about it.

cirrhosis_treatment_prevention

 

Conclusion


The fact that alcohol is harmful to one’s body is not news. But the severity of the effects can still be shocking to some, particularly when these effects are not brought on right away, but rather when they catch up with you decades later.

If you have cirrhosis, it is important that you are aware of what measures and treatments are available to help you manage your illness.

In conclusion, it’s important to stay positive and prevent cirrhosis from developing. Regardless of your diet, it’s good to be aware of what you’re eating. Anything that encourages you to make better nutritional choices is worth considering.

Contact Dr. Deetlefs today to book your appointment online or call us on 021-5518678.

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

GIDoc Cape Town

Patient-focused GI treatments and procedures in Cape Town.

Monday-Friday 8AM-4PM.

Connect with Us

© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town

Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

Liver Cirrhosis: Causes and Preventive Measures

Liver Cirrhosis: Causes and Preventive Measures

Do you know what your liver does and are you taking good care of it? 

If not, this may be the time for you to start taking care of this part of your body that is responsible for digesting meals and eliminating toxins from the body. 

In this article, we will discuss one of the common liver diseases known as cirrhosis. 

 

Overview 

 

The liver is a dark reddish-brown organ that weighs roughly 1.5kg.

 The liver is involved in a variety of bodily functions, including protein synthesis and blood clotting, cholesterol, glucose (sugar), and iron metabolism.

Its primary function is to filter blood from the digestive tract before it is sent throughout the body.

Chemicals are detoxified and medicines are metabolized by the liver and secretes bile, which is then reabsorbed by the intestines.

This aids in the removal of waste materials from the liver. This important organ filters the blood that leaves the stomach and intestines. 

 healthy_liver_cirrhosis

 

What is Liver Cirrhosis

 

Liver cirrhosis is a disease in which the liver scars irreversibly. 

It causes permanent damage because scar tissue obstructs your liver’s ability to function normally. 

Cirrhosis is the final stage of the fibrosis (scarring) of the liver, which is caused by a variety of liver illnesses or diseases such as prolonged alcoholism or hepatitis. 

When the liver is harmed by disease or excessive alcohol intake, it attempts to heal itself by forming scar tissue. 

Scar tissues continue to grow as cirrhosis advances. Cirrhosis in its advanced stages can be fatal.

The scar tissue reduces the liver’s capacity to metabolize nutrients, hormones, medicines, and natural toxins by blocking blood flow through the liver (poisons). It also lowers the liver’s production of proteins and other chemicals.  

Cirrhosis causes irreversible damage; however, it can be minimized to some extent if discovered early and treated effectively. 

 

cirrhosis_liver

 

 What are the Symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis?

 

It is possible that you will not experience any symptoms at an early stage. 

However, when the damage to your liver worsens, you may notice problems like the following:

  • Fatigue or exhaustion, feeling weak
  • Prone to bleeding or bruising
  • Swelling in abdomen
  • Edema (swelling of abdomen and/or legs, feet, ankles)
  • Weight loss and a lack of appetite
  • Nausea

It is also possible that you will notice changes in your skin, such as: 

  • Jaundice (a condition wherein one’s skin and eyes turn yellow)
  • Severe itching
  • Blood vessels that look like spider webs
  • Redness in the palms of your hands or nail bleaching 

You may even have changes in your thinking, such as difficulties with focus or remembering. 

Confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech can also be symptoms of liver cirrhosis.

symptoms_of_cirrhosis

What are the Causes of Liver Cirrhosis?

 

Cirrhosis is always the result of a problem or disease with the liver. If you do not treat the underlying cause of your liver cirrhosis, it will worsen, and your healthy liver cells will eventually be unable to keep up. 

In fact, you might start to feel the symptoms above. Your liver may even be unable to function properly or at all after some time. 

It’s critical to figure out what’s causing this cirrhosis so you can get the appropriate treatment and prevent it from worsening. The following are the most typical causes: 

  • Serious alcohol abuse
  • Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and Hepatitis D
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (fat accumulating in the liver) 
  • Autoimmune hepatitis 
  • Chronic heart failure 
  • Ascites (a condition in which fluid accumulates in the abdominal cavity) 
  • Infections, including syphilis (a bacterial infection usually spread by sexual contact) and brucellosis (a bacterial infection that spreads from animals to people) 
  • Bad or allergic reactions to certain medications like methotrexate (chemotherapeutic drug that suppresses the immune system) and isoniazid (an antibiotic used for the treatment of tuberculosis)

Other causes could be hereditary such as:  

  • Wilson’s disease (copper accumulates in your liver, brain, and other key organs due to a rare congenital condition) 
  • Biliary atresia (blockage in the tubes or ducts that transport bile from the liver to the gallbladder)
  • Cystic fibrosis (a condition that affects the lungs and digestive system wherein mucus or a thick sticky substance produced by the body can clog the lungs and impede the pancreas) 
  • Galactosemia or galactose in the blood (an illness that affect the body’s capacity to digest and produce energy from the sugar galactose) 
  • Alagille syndrome (a condition that affects the liver and other organs because of the presence of fewer tiny bile ducts in the liver causing scarring and damage to the organ) 
  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency or AAT deficiency (a disorder that increases your chances of developing lung and liver illness if AAT, proteins produced by the liver that protects the lungs, gets trapped in the liver)   

 

Stages of Cirrhosis 

 

There are different stages of cirrhosis depending on how well your liver is working.

Once you have been diagnosed with a liver cirrhosis, you will know what stage you are in, whether compensated or decompensated.
 

Stage 1.

You have compensated cirrhosis if you have cirrhosis but no visible symptoms (you are asymptomatic). Compensated cirrhosis occurs when the liver is scarred yet still capable of performing most of its essential functions. 

 

Stage 2.

Liver cirrhosis is characterized by increasing portal hypertension (scarring of the liver) and the appearance of varices (veins that are enlarged or swollen). 

 

Stage 3.

Decompensated cirrhosis is defined as cirrhosis that has progressed to the point where the liver is having difficulty functioning and you are experiencing symptoms of the disease. 

 

Stage 4.

This stage can be fatal, and some persons acquire end-stage liver disease (ESLD), which is lethal without a transplant.  stages_of_liver_disease_cirrhosis

 

Preventive Measures against Liver Cirrhosis

 

The risk factors are the most typical causes mentioned above, serious alcohol abuse and viral hepatitis. Being overweight is also a problem.

Obesity raises the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, both of which can develop to cirrhosis.

While there is no cure for cirrhosis because the damage done to your liver will be permanent, you can prevent liver cirrhosis or keep it from getting worse by taking the following preventive measures:  

  • Stop drinking alcoholic beverages (or limit it if you really cannot stop at once so you can later get used to none). You can even ask your doctor to suggest a treatment program for addiction. 
  • If you have chronic hepatitis (B or C), have it treated with antiviral medications. 
  • Avoid drugs and medications that can strain your liver and ask your doctor if it’s okay to take over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen because these are bad for ascites. 
  • If you are obese, lose weight. Your liver can be harmed by having too much body fat. If you are obese or overweight, talk to your doctor about a weight-loss strategy. 
  • Consume an adequate amount of protein. Have a healthy, well-balanced, and low-fat diet. 
  • Get flu, pneumonia, and hepatitis A and B vaccinations. 

It is strongly advised that you visit a doctor as soon as you notice the symptoms. 

 what_is_cirrhosis_infographic

 

Conclusion

 

Cirrhosis develops as a late-stage consequence of liver disease.

In the early stages of the condition, you may not experience any symptoms.
Alcohol misuse, hepatitis, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease are all common causes.
Cirrhosis treatment is determined by the origin of the disease and the extent of the damage.

Remember that prevention is better than cure.

If you would like to book an appointment with a gastrointestinal (GI) specialist or would simply like more information on a particular GI topic, don’t hesitate to use our online booking form or call Dr. Deetlefs at 021 551 867.

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

GIDoc Cape Town

Patient-focused GI treatments and procedures in Cape Town.

Monday-Friday 8AM-4PM.

Connect with Us

© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town

Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

Cirrhosis Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Cirrhosis Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Cirrhosis, also known as end-stage liver disease, refers to the impaired liver function that results from fibrosis, or liver scar tissue, due to the damage caused by liver disease.

There are many causes and forms of liver disease, some of which we will explore in this article, but each time your liver is injured by disease or another cause it will attempt to repair itself. This reparation process results in the formation of scar tissue which is not inherently bad.

What makes scar tissue on the liver harmful is when it reaches a level of presence that impedes the ability of the liver to perform its normal functions. What is even more concerning is that once the damage is done, it cannot simply be healed.

The damage is there to stay.

When this condition becomes advanced enough, it can be life-threatening.

However, if liver cirrhosis is caught and diagnosed early enough in its existence, then it is possible to limit further damage and reduce the connected possible health deficits.

Now that we’ve established that cirrhosis is quite serious, let’s present a clear guide to understanding the symptoms, an explanation of the causes of cirrhosis, and an exploration of the available treatments available for handling this liver problem.

cirrhosis_symptoms

Symptoms of Cirrhosis

Unfortunately, symptoms of cirrhosis can be quite difficult to notice for the person suffering from it. Only when the damage is quite extensive will the patient notice at which point it is normally too late for the liver to recover.

When the condition is serious enough to the point where it is not reversible, there is a multitude of symptoms that one may experience.

Just five of them may include easily bleeding or bruising, swelling in the legs due to oedema, yellow discolouration in the skin and eyes known as jaundice, absence of periods for women, and loss of sex drive for men.

There are a host of other symptoms but the few listed above paint a picture of the seriousness with which this condition should be treated.

In other words, all precautions should be taken to ensure that one does not develop cirrhosis as the damage will cause extensive bodily harm with no real treatment available to reverse the damage.

Causes of Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis can be caused by a number of conditions but there are several lifestyle or other factors that can increase the likelihood of developing liver disease and the associated liver scarring.

These are called risk factors and the first one on the list is drinking too much alcohol. This is a direct risk factor for cirrhosis with excessive alcohol consumption causing significant liver damage.

Another culprit is being overweight. While simply being overweight does not cause excessive liver scarring, it does increase one’s risk of developing conditions that have the potential to result in cirrhosis.

One such weight-related disease is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.

The last risk factor worth mentioning here is that of viral hepatitis. While not a sure-fire way to develop cirrhosis, viral hepatitis is one of the world’s leading causes of liver disease.

cirrhosis_liver

Treatment of Cirrhosis

Prevention is better than cure, always, so it’s worth looking at a couple of preventive measures that can be taken to lower one’s risk of developing cirrhosis.

Ultimately, it comes down to looking after your liver which can be done in several ways:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Advice just about as old as modern medicine itself, a healthy diet is essential for a healthy body and, by obvious association, a healthy liver. In general, a plant-based diet should be followed with a high percentage of fruits and vegetables. Whole grains and lean sources of meat should be selected over simple sugars and fatty foods.
  • Reduce your risk of hepatitis. As mentioned earlier, hepatitis is a leading cause of liver disease. As such, all precautions should be taken to prevent contracting hepatitis.
  • Reduce alcohol consumption. If one already has cirrhosis, then alcohol should be avoided at all costs. Reducing one’s alcohol consumption, even when one does not have cirrhosis, is a wise choice with many parts of the body guaranteed a better chance at increased health and maintained optimal functioning.

Were one to develop cirrhosis, there are several viable treatment options which we will discuss below.

Generally, treatment depends on the causes of cirrhosis and the extent to which it has damaged one’s liver already.

Treatments seek to slow scar tissue progression while lowering the occurrence of, or eliminating entirely, the associated symptoms.

Underlying Cirrhosis Cause Treatment

This treatment is effective in the earlier stages of cirrhosis when the tissue scarring has not become too severe.

If alcohol is the chief cause of cirrhosis, then one’s doctor would recommend drastically reducing alcohol intake.

If the patient is unable to do this then the doctor may recommend a treatment program for alcohol addiction.

One of the jobs the liver performs in cleansing the blood is detoxifying it of alcohol. If cirrhosis is already present, then alcohol is toxic to the liver as it is unable to be processed.

When cirrhosis is caused by non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, patients have the potential to become healthier by losing weight and asserting back control of their blood sugar levels.

Lastly, medications that control other causes of cirrhosis and treat the symptoms of cirrhosis may be given to slow its progression.

Cirrhosis Complications and Treatment

As oedema is a common symptom of cirrhosis, a low-sodium diet and medication to prevent fluid build-up in the body may help control the swelling. If the fluid retention is severe, however, then procedures may be required to drain the fluid.

Hepatic encephalopathy is where reduced brain function results from severe liver disease. In this case, one’s doctor may prescribe medication to assist in reducing toxin build-up in the blood due to the large decrease in liver function.

Infections are another common complication that may arise due to liver cirrhosis. Doctors will prescribe antibiotics in this case along with a recommendation for vaccinations for pneumonia, hepatitis, and influenza.

Liver Transplant Surgery

Cirrhosis is one of the most common reasons for a liver transplant. This procedure is required when the liver stops functioning due to the severity of the condition.

It’s performed by replacing one’s liver with a healthy liver from a deceased donor or with a part of the liver from a living person.

This is the last resort and potential recipients require extensive testing to ascertain whether they are healthy enough to have a high likelihood of a good outcome. One of the many requirements of alcohol-induced cirrhosis patients is a lifelong commitment to alcohol abstinence.

Summary

Cirrhosis is a severe form of liver disease where tissue scarring has greatly impacted the normal functioning of the liver.

While the damage cannot be reversed, there are a number of preventive measures which can be taken to reduce the likelihood of developing cirrhosis such as reducing alcohol consumption, following a healthy diet, and avoiding infections.

In severe cases, liver transplants are currently the only way to replace a liver that can no longer function.

It is best to diagnose cirrhosis as early as possible so that measures can be taken to reduce the damage and increase the longevity of the liver.

If you would like to book an appointment with a gastrointestinal (GI) specialist or would simply like more information on a particular GI topic, don’t hesitate to use our online booking form or call Dr. Deetlefs at 021 551 8678.

 

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

GIDoc Cape Town

Patient-focused GI treatments and procedures in Cape Town.

Monday-Friday 8AM-4PM.

Connect with Us

© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town

Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

Fatty Liver Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Fatty Liver Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

After a long week’s work, all you want to do on a Friday night is to eat out, drink, and have fun with your colleagues or friends.

The night gets long, you go home tired, and while resting, your liver works harder.

The liver is the body’s largest internal organ which is about the size of a football. The liver is the body’s blood purifier.  Without it, our bodies will be filled with toxins that will make us sick.

Its primary functions are to:

  • filter and get rid of the toxins and other blood impurities;
  • produce and excrete bile that helps with digestion by breaking down fat in the small intestine;
  • make blood plasma proteins;
  • convert excess glucose into glycogen for storage that can be later turned back into glucose for energy as needed;
  • manage blood clotting; and
  • metabolize fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

Because of these functions, the liver is one of the organs that are most subject to abuse and damage. One of the most common liver diseases is the fatty liver disease (FLD) or hepatic steatosis.

What is Fatty Liver Disease?

FLD is a condition where excess fat builds up in the liver. It happens when the liver cannot metabolize fat, resulting in the fat not being excreted out of the body.

There are two types of FLD: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD). By the names of it, NAFLD is acquired by those who drink little to no alcohol and the latter is from consuming too much alcohol over time.

Fatty liver is actually the earliest stage of liver disease.

Having a fatty liver is not life-threatening, but neglecting this condition can lead to other more serious conditions such as liver cirrhosis and even cancer.

 

 

 

What are the Causes and Risk Factors of FLD?

 

The excess or build-up of fat in the liver can be caused by various habits and medical conditions. The causes can be:

  • Alcohol Abuse
    When metabolizing alcohol in the liver, toxic metabolites are produced. This commonly happens to chronic alcoholics.
  • Metabolism-Related Disease
    FLD can be caused by existing disorders such as abetalipoproteinemia or the disorder when proper absorption of fat and fat-soluble vitamins from food is obstructed.Another example is glycogen storage disease when the synthesis or metabolism of glycogen is affected by enzyme deficiencies.Because heh body is an interconnected system of organs, problems with metabolism can affect the liver and cause FLD and other liver diseases.
  • Nutrition-Related Factors
    Obesity or excess accumulation of fat in the body can also cause FLD. Other factors include high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and high levels of triglycerides in the blood.Triglycerides are also known as lipids or a type of fat. When you eat, the calories that your body does not immediately need are converted to triglycerides and stored in fat cells. These are later released for your body’s energy in between meals.Rapid weight loss and malnutrition can also cause FLD.
  • Drugs and Toxins Intake
    Fatty liver disease can sometimes be a side effect of medications and drug intake, as well as exposure to toxins.

While chronic alcohol intake is one of the major causes of FLD, some people develop FLD even when they do not have the mentioned habits and medical conditions.
Some factors increase the risk of having a fatty liver including the following:

  • obesity
  • chronic viral hepatitis
  • genetics
  • old age
  • removed gallbladder
  • polycystic ovary syndrome
  • sleep apnea
  • type II Diabetes
  • hypothyroidism
  • hypopituitarism

How Serious is a Fatty Liver?

If fat is detected in the liver biopsy but the liver is not swollen and has no tissue damage, the diagnosis may be non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

This is a simple fatty liver and nothing serious. But you need to treat it before it develops into serious liver diseases.

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH is one of the serious liver diseases.
It is diagnosed if you have fat in the liver, and the organ is swollen and damaged.
When liver damage from NASH is left untreated, it can lead to much more serious liver diseases like cancer.

Permanent scarring (fibrosis) to the liver that causes it to harden is cirrhosis or liver cancer.

In a 2010 study of NAFLD in Western Cape, South Africa, 48% of the 233 screened patients had NAFLD, of whom 36% had NASH and 17% had advanced liver fibrosis.

 

 

What are the Symptoms of FLD?

FLD usually gives no symptoms. People often learn about their fatty liver because of medical exams for other reasons or during their annual physical and medical tests.

The liver is situated in the upper right abdomen, below the lungs, and on top of the stomach. This is the part that throbs, hurts, or feels tired that may indicate damage to the liver.

In cases of fatty liver disease that has developed into a serious condition like non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the following symptoms may be experienced:

  • Swollen belly
  • Enlarged bloodvessels underneath the skin that appear to be spiderlike
  • Larger-than-normal breasts in men
  • Red palms
  • Skin and eyesthat appear yellowish.

 

How is FLD Diagnosed?

You may experience no symptoms that will directly relate to fatty liver disease so it is best to have yourself checked annually or whenever you deem necessary.

Detection of a probable FLD can be through a blood sample or an imaging test.

If there is something unusual in the blood test results or the liver appears slightly enlarged in an imaging test, your doctor may recommend the following procedures to diagnose FLD:

  • Lifestyle and Health History
    Your doctor may ask about your alcohol drinking habits, eating habits, and if you have relatives who had liver diseases. Your doctor may also ask about your other medical conditions that may have caused FLD.
  • Imaging Test
    Fat in the liver appears bright in an ultrasound. Other imaging tests such as CT scans or magnetic resonance imaging can also show fat in the liver.
  • Physical Exam
    Your doctor may inspect your body and look for symptoms such as swollen belly or jaundice, a condition that causes a yellow pigmentation in the skin and the sclera (white part in the eyes), among others.

 

  • Serology or blood test.
    High levels of specific enzymes indicate a problem in the liver.
    Serology is also used to eliminate possibilities of other diseases such as hepatitis.
  • Liver biopsy.
    Your doctor may recommend this if a serious condition of fatty liver disease is suspected.
    In a liver biopsy, a sample of liver tissue is collected and examined.

It is also best to talk to your doctor about other symptoms you may have been experiencing like fatigue, loss of appetite, etc.

You can also ask your doctor about clarifications and the next steps if you will be diagnosed with FLD.

 

Fatty Liver Disease_cape_town

 

How is Fatty Liver Disease Treated?

A simple case of fatty liver disease can be treated by correcting habits and making lifestyle changes to control fat accumulation in the liver.

A proper and balanced diet is a good start. You also need to decrease your calorie intake, cut back on your sugar, and exercise regularly.

Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation whether you have alcoholic or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Always check your medicines or prescriptions from other conditions before mixing them with alcohol. Mixing drugs and alcohol can cause damage to the liver.

If you drink heavily or think you are suffering from alcoholism, you can confidentially disclose this to your doctor.

This way, your medication and treatment can address both the fatty liver disease and alcoholism and other issues that may hamper your recovery and affect your overall health.

Contact Dr. Deetlefs today for an appointment in Cape Town.

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

GIDoc Cape Town

Patient-focused GI treatments and procedures in Cape Town.

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© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town

Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.