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How Bad is a Fatty Liver and How to Know You Have One

July 24, 2023

Tiredness and feeling unwell can be symptoms of fatty liver, lady sitting up on bed feeling unwell

Having a fatty liver can be a cause for concern, as it can lead to serious health issues if left untreated. In this guide, we will explore the symptoms of a fatty liver, understanding what it is and the potential risks and complications associated with it.

What is a Fatty Liver?

A fatty liver, also known as hepatic (liver) steatosis (fat), is a condition where there is an accumulation of fat in the liver cells.

This can happen due to various reasons, such as excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, high cholesterol levels, and certain medical conditions.

When the liver has too much fat, it can become inflamed and damaged, leading to potential health problems.

It is important to understand the causes and symptoms of a fatty liver in order to take appropriate measures for prevention and treatment.

How the liver changes from healthy liver to liver cirrhosis

Causes and Risk Factors of Fatty Liver

There are several causes and risk factors that can contribute to the development of a fatty liver.

One of the most common causes is excessive alcohol consumption.

Alcohol is processed by the liver, and when consumed in large amounts, it can lead to the accumulation of fat in the liver cells.

Obesity is another major risk factor for fatty liver, as excess body weight can lead to the buildup of fat in the liver.

High cholesterol levels, particularly high levels of triglycerides, can also contribute to the development of a fatty liver.

Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and polycystic ovary syndrome, can increase the risk as well.

It is important to address these risk factors and make lifestyle changes to prevent or manage a fatty liver.

Cholesterol is one of the risk factors for fatty liver

Signs and Symptoms of Fatty Liver

Fatty liver is often referred to as a silent disease because it may not cause any noticeable symptoms in the early stages.

However, as the condition progresses, some common signs and symptoms may start to appear.

These can include fatigue, weakness, and a general feeling of being unwell.

Some people may experience pain or discomfort in the upper right side of the abdomen, where the liver is located.

Other possible symptoms include enlarged liver, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), and swelling in the legs and ankles.

It is important to note that these symptoms can also be from other health conditions, so it is best to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.

Complications (and Potential Health Risks)

A fatty liver can lead to serious complications and potential health risks if left untreated.

One of the most concerning complications is the development of liver cirrhosis, which is the scarring of the liver tissue.

Cirrhosis can impair the liver’s ability to function properly and can lead to liver failure.

Additionally, there is a close association between a fatty liver with an increased risk of developing liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).

Other potential health risks include insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. It is important to take a fatty liver seriously and seek medical advice for proper diagnosis and management.

Getting vaccination against Hepatitis A and B can reduce the risk of fatty

Preventing and Treating Fatty Liver

Preventing and treating a fatty liver involves making lifestyle changes and seeking medical intervention when necessary.

Here are some options to consider:


  1. Maintaining a healthy weight: Losing excess weight and maintaining a healthy body weight can help reduce fat accumulation in the liver.
  2. Eat a balanced diet: Focus on consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Limit your intake of processed foods, sugary beverages, and saturated fats.
  3. Exercise regularly: Engaging in regular physical activity can help improve liver health and reduce the risk of fatty liver. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
  4. Limit alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption is a major contributor to fatty liver disease. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation or consider abstaining altogether.


  1. Manage underlying conditions: If you have conditions such as obesity, diabetes, or high cholesterol, work with your healthcare provider to manage them effectively, as they can contribute to fatty liver.
  2. Avoid certain medications: Some medications, such as certain corticosteroids and tamoxifen, can contribute to fatty liver. Discuss with your doctor if you are taking any medications that may be affecting your liver health.
  3. Get your vaccines: Vaccinations for hepatitis A and B can help protect your liver from viral infections that can lead to liver damage.
  4. Seek medical advice: If you suspect you have a fatty liver or are at risk, consult with a healthcare professional. They can provide a proper diagnosis, recommend lifestyle changes, and prescribe medications if necessary.

Remember, early detection and intervention are key in preventing the progression of fatty liver disease and reducing the associated health risks.

More Reading

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners to help promote quality healthcare. The advice in our material is not meant to replace a qualified healthcare practitioner’s management of your specific condition.
Please get in touch with a health practitioner
 to discuss your condition, or reach us directly here. 

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