Fatty Infiltration Of The Liver: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Fatty infiltration of liver is a metabolic complication in which excess of fat (triglycerides) accumulates in the liver cells. Normally liver cells store some amount of fat. But in fatty infiltration of liver more than 10 percent of liver’s weight comprises of fat. This condition is also called steatosis hepatis. Variety of clinical conditions such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, malnutrition, parenteral nutrition, glucocorticoid therapy, chemotherapy, alcoholism, etc can cause fatty infiltration of liver.

However, the most common causes of all are obesity and alcoholism worldwide.

Fatty infiltration of liver although abnormal is harmless in most cases. But it becomes a cause of concern when the fat cells start inflammation and scarring of liver. This can ultimately lead to serious liver disease called cirrhosis. Early detection of fatty infiltration and taking steps to reverse it can reduce the chances of cirrhosis.

What Causes Fatty Infiltration Of The Liver?

Modern day life-style, wrong food and drinking habits are the most common causes of fatty infiltration of liver. Fatty liver occurs when the body produces excess of fat or the body is unable to easily and quickly metabolize fat. This excess of fat now gets accumulated in liver, increasing the volume of fat in the liver cells.

Although alcoholism and obesity are the most common causes of fatty infiltration of liver all over the world, there are many other possible conditions that may be responsible for it.

  • Alcoholism
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Inherited trait
  • Viral hepatitis
  • Malnutrition
  • Abnormal loss of weight.
  • Long term parentral feeding.
  • High level of cholesterol in blood or hyperlipedemia.
  • Congenital disease such as Wilson’s disease.
  • Infections such as tuberculosis.
  • Certain medicines such as corticosteroids, sedatives, methotrexate, diltiazem, excess intake of vitamin A.

The risk of fatty infiltration is more if the person is obese, or alcoholic, or having high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Signs And Symptoms Of Fatty Infiltration Of The Liver

Mild cases of fatty infiltration of liver are asymptomatic. The condition is may be detected incidentally during tests performed for some other reason. For example it may be detected on sonogram of upper abdomen when the test is performed for some other cause.

In some people the symptoms may be vague and may include:

  • Heaviness in abdomen
  • Generalized fatigue
  • Lack of appetite
  • Pain in right side of abdomen when pressed gently.

But when fatty infiltration remain undetected and unchecked for long time it may lead to irreversible damage to liver causing life threatening condition called cirrhosis of liver. During this period, the patient may present with clinical features such as:

  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice or yellow discoloration of sclera, nails and skin.
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Distension of abdomen
  • Mild traumatic injury causes easy bleeding.
  • Distension or prominence of abdominal veins.
  • Tremor in finger. Peculiar flappy tremors.
  • Itching all over the body.
  • Loss of libido
  • Fainting spells
  • Confusion

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Fatty Infiltration Of The Liver

Usually fatty infiltration of liver is an incidental diagnosis unless the symptoms are more apparent. Following methods are used for diagnosis of this condition:

  • Ultrasonography: It is a painless non interventional procedure where sound waves are interpreted for accurately diagnosing fatty liver disease.
  • Liver function test: Blood enzyme test to detect the functioning of liver.
  • CT scan and MRI: Both are radiological tests used to detect the structural changes in the liver cells.

There is no standard treatment regimen for fatty infiltration of liver. Treating the underlying cause can reverse the condition back to normal, provided infiltration is detected in its early stage. Following are conventional measures that help to improve fatty infiltration of liver:

  • Life style changes are effective in reducing the fatty load on liver. Patient must stop drinking alcohol as it is one of the most common factors causing fatty infiltration.
  • Obese people must reduce their weight. Regular exercise and reduced fatty intake of food are two essential elements in reducing weight.
  • Controlling high blood sugar and cholesterol is essential for effective management of fatty liver.
  • Avoid certain known medications once detected with fatty infiltration of liver. Patient must talk with his doctor regarding any change in medicine if he is known case of fatty liver.

Home remedies such as apple cider vinegar, lemon, green tea, turmeric, licorice, garlic are useful in stimulating reduction of weight as well as inflammation in the liver caused due to fatty infiltration.