How serious is a Fatty Liver?

Fatty Liver

A fatty liver is where fat builds up in the liver cells. This can happen if you drink too much alcohol or are obese. A fatty liver isn’t usually a serious problem, but it can be if it leads to inflammation. Learn more about fatty liver condition here:

The main symptoms of a fatty liver are:

  • Feeling very tired 
  • Weight loss 
  • Nausea 
  • Pain in the abdomen 
  • A yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice) 
  • Itchy skin 
  • Dark urine 
  • Pale stools

If you have any of these symptoms, see your GP. They may want to do some tests to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as hepatitis.

Having a fatty liver doesn’t always cause symptoms. In fact, many people with fatty liver don’t know they have it. The only way to find out for sure is to have a liver biopsy. This is where a small sample of liver tissue is removed and examined under a microscope.

How do you get a Fatty Liver? 

Most cases of a fatty liver are caused by one of two things – drinking too much alcohol or being obese. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to a build-up of fat in the liver cells.

This is because the liver breaks down alcohol and turns it into a substance called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is then broken down into water and carbon dioxide.

However, if you drink too much alcohol, your liver can’t keep up with the amount of acetaldehyde. This build-up of toxic substances damages the liver cells, leading to fat build-up.

Being obese also increases your risk of developing a fatty liver because excess body fat leads to inflammation. This can damage the liver cells and lead to a build-up of fat. Other causes of a fatty liver include:

  • Diabetes 
  • High cholesterol or triglycerides (types of fat in your blood) 
  • Underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
  • Certain types of medication, such as corticosteroids and tamoxifen
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC)

Is Fatty Liver Something to Worry About? 

A fatty liver isn’t usually a serious problem and doesn’t usually cause any symptoms. However, it can lead to inflammation of the liver (steatohepatitis), which can damage the liver cells.

In some cases, steatohepatitis can progress to cirrhosis, which is a serious condition where the liver becomes severely scarred and no longer works properly. Cirrhosis is fatal if not treated. 

In most cases, there’s no need to panic if you’re diagnosed with fatty liver. While this condition can lead to some serious health problems, such as cirrhosis, it’s often possible to reverse the damage with lifestyle changes.

If you have a fatty liver, it’s important to try to reduce your risk of developing steatohepatitis or cirrhosis. You can do this by:

  • Cutting down on alcohol
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining a healthy weight and
  • Avoiding crash diets

How to Treat a Fatty Liver 

When it comes to fatty liver treatments, it is important to note that there are two main types of fat in the liver – triglycerides, and cholesterol. If you have too much fat in your liver, it’s called fatty liver.

For most people, having a fatty liver isn’t harmful (as explained earlier in this post). But if it’s not caused by drinking alcohol, it can lead to other problems such as inflammation.

This is medically known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Having NASH can eventually lead to scarring of the liver. This is known as cirrhosis, which can be life-threatening.

The first step in treating a fatty liver is to cut down on the amount of fat you’re eating. You should also cut down on the amount of sugar you’re eating and drinking.

Sugar is found in lots of everyday foods and drinks, such as biscuits, cakes, fizzy drinks, and fruit juices. You might also need to lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. Losing weight will help to reduce the amount of fat in your liver.

If you’ve opted for losing weight, it is important that you aim at slowly and steadily losing the weight by exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet. If you have NASH, you might need to take medication or have surgery to remove part of your liver. In some cases, you might need a liver transplant if NASH has led to cirrhosis and your liver is no longer working properly.

How long does it take to reverse a Fatty Liver?

If you have been diagnosed with a fatty liver and began taking steps to reverse it, you may be wondering, how long will it take to reverse my fatty liver? Now, while there is no set time frame for reversing fatty liver, significant changes can usually be seen within 3-6 months of treatment.

Treatment will vary depending on the individual but may include weight loss, exercise, and improvements to diet. In some cases, medications may also be prescribed to help reduce fat deposition in the liver.

If your fatty liver condition was due to excessive alcohol consumption, there is a massive chance of reversing the damage if you can abstain from alcohol consumption for at least 14 days. After this initial period, you can begin to reintroduce alcohol BUT in moderation.

If you have been diagnosed with fatty liver disease, it is very important to seek treatment as soon as possible to reduce your risk of developing more serious liver conditions, such as cirrhosis or liver cancer. If you are unsure about what treatment options are available, speak to your doctor or a qualified liver specialist.

Wrapping Up

Even though a fatty liver isn’t really something to worry about, it can lead to other problems down the road if it’s not taken care of. So, if you think you might have a fatty liver, be sure to talk to your doctor about it. They can help you figure out if you need to make any lifestyle changes or take medication.

At the Alpha Digestive & Liver Center, our team of experts is dedicated to helping you overcome any liver condition, no matter how serious. We offer a range of treatment options, including medication, surgery, and lifestyle changes. If you would like to learn more about our services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call: (65) 6235 9658 or visit us at;

Alpha Digestive & Liver Centre | Dr Benjamin Yip

3 Mt Elizabeth #15-09
Mt Elizabeth Medical Centre
Singapore 228510

+65 8876 9034

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