Fatty liver and weight-related conditions are on the rise in the UK. If you're worried, get your liver checked out with your GP. Fatty liver is also known as NAFLD or 'Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease'. We think this is an awful acronym and would love to see it changed.
How do I know I have a fatty liver?
Although blood tests would have been undertaken, an ultrasound scan is used to confirm the diagnosis of a fatty liver. The liver is sometimes referred to as being “bright” if it contains fatty infiltrations.
Would I need to carry alot of weight, or look 'fat' to have a fatty liver?
Not necessarily. Some people are what we call TOFI (Thin Outside, Fat Inside).
What should I do if I have a fatty liver?
Your GP should investigate the cause(s) before advising you. They will ask you questions about your lifestyle and may refer you to a dietitian. Some people have a genetic predisposition for a fatty liver, so this will need to be discussed also. Generally speaking, if you can improve your diet and exercise regime, the fat in the liver should decrease. NB:
some medications are known to contribute to a fatty liver, e.g. methotrexate
Triglycerides are the main culprit towards the development of fatty infiltrations in the liver. (Our body produces triglycerides, but they are present in many foods and drinks – Omega-3 is said to help decrease triglyceride levels).
Will I be monitored and have a repeat ultrasound scan?
Yes, you should be carefully monitored and to have regular blood tests, particularly your lipid profile and Liver Function Test to keep a close eye on your ALT (alanine aminotransferase). A follow-up ultrasound scan after a few months will show improvements to the liver (if lifestyle changes have been observed).
If a person doesn’t know they have a fatty liver, they will not realise the risk of damage to their liver. The fatty infiltrations will become worse and potentially develop into cirrhosis (severe, permanent liver damage).