Fatty Liver

What is fatty infiltration of the liver?
Fatty liver, or steatosis, is a broad term that describes the buildup of fats in the liver. Having fat in your liver is normal, but if more than five to 10 percent is fat, then it is called fatty liver disease.

Fatty liver is a reversible condition and usually goes away on its own. Fatty liver often has no symptoms and does not cause any permanent damage.

The liver is the second largest organ in the body. The liver’s function is to process everything we eat or drink and filter any harmful substances from the blood. If too much fat has accumulated in the liver then this process is interfered with. The liver commonly repairs itself by rebuilding new liver cells when the old ones are damaged. When there is repeated damage to the liver, permanent scarring takes place. This is called cirrhosis.

Fatty liver is quite common. Ten to 20 percent of Americans have too much fat in their liver, but no inflammation or damage is present. Most cases of fatty liver are detected between ages 50 and 60

What causes fatty infiltration of the liver?
Fatty liver develops when the body creates too much fat or cannot metabolize fat fast enough. As a result, the leftover is stored in liver cells where it accumulates to become fatty liver disease. Eating a high-fat diet does not directly result in fatty liver.

Common causes of fatty liver include:

  • metabolic syndrome
    • excess body weight
    • insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes)
    • high levels of triglycerides (fats) in the blood
  • drugs
    • aspirin
    • steroids
    • tamoxifen
    • tetracycline
  • pregnancy
  • toxins
  • alcoholism
  • viruses

What are symptoms of fatty infiltration of the liver?
There are typically no symptoms of fatty liver. Some people experience fatigue or vague abdominal discomfort. The liver may become slightly enlarged—which your doctor will notice with a thorough physical exam.