Fatty liver disease: Symptoms to spot warning condition has caused your liver to harden

Liver disease: NHS Doctor talks about link with alcohol

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Fatty liver disease is an umbrella term for a build-up of fat in the liver. An accumulation of fat in the liver is either alcoholic-related or non-alcoholic-related. Over time, the liver can harden causing a number of serious health outcomes. What symptoms indicate your liver is becoming hardened?

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is an advanced form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The condition is a more aggressive and serious form, in which the liver is inflamed, and scarring starts. 

It occurs when there is both liver inflammation and damage caused by a build-up of fat in the liver.

Occasionally liver damage causes long-term scarring and hardening of the liver.

This is known as cirrhosis.

NASH that turns into cirrhosis could cause these symptoms:

  • Extra fluid build-up (fluid retention)
  • Internal bleeding
  • Muscle wasting
  • Confusion.

A scarred liver can’t function properly, and ultimately, this may result in cirrhosis.

Cirrhosis causes the liver to shrink and harden and makes it difficult for nutrient-rich blood to flow into the liver from the portal vein.

The portal vein carries blood from the digestive organs to the liver. The pressure in the portal vein rises when blood can’t pass into the liver.

Overtime this could lead to portal hypertension which occurs when the vein develops high blood pressure.

This high-pressure system causes a backup, which leads to oesophageal varices, similar to varicose veins, which can then burst and bleed.

How to prevent hardening of the liver

  • Don’t abuse alcohol
  • Eat a well-balanced or a low-fat diet such as the Mediterranean diet
  • Avoid raw seafood
  • Cut back on the amount of salt in your diet.

Experts don’t know exactly why some people accumulate fat in the liver while others do not.

Similarly, there is limited understanding of why some fatty livers develop inflammation that progresses to cirrhosis.

However, both NAFLD and NASH are both linked to the following:

  • Overweight or obesity
  • 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.

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