Fatty liver is a common chronic liver disease, particularly in people with diabetes and who are overweight. Even though the liver is the largest internal organ, it can be challenging to pinpoint the pain from your liver. Hence, the fatty liver does not have significant symptoms.
However, it can lead to pain in the upper right region of the abdomen. Most times, you may not know you have fatty liver until a routine test shows signs of an abnormality. As a result, it is easy to confuse fatty liver pain with pain from your stomach.
Fatty Liver – An Overview
The liver is a vital organ. Its functions include bile production to help with digestion, storing iron in the body, creating substances that help blood clotting, and fighting infections by removing toxins from the blood. The liver also makes proteins for the body and converts nutrients into energy.
Fatty liver disease is a common health condition caused by too much fat buildup in the liver. A healthy liver contains a small amount of fat. But when fat makes up 5% to 10% of the liver’s weight, it becomes a significant issue.
Fatty Liver: Stages
According to a study, fatty liver disease progresses through three stages. The first stage, called steatohepatitis, is when the liver becomes inflamed and starts to experience damage.
The second stage, fibrosis, is when scar tissue begins to form around areas of damage. The third and most progressive stage, cirrhosis, is when extensive scar tissue replaces all healthy tissue, causing severe liver damage.
This hard scar tissue can slow down the organ’s functioning, leading to liver failure or liver cancer.
The pain intensity varies from stage to stage, with extreme pain happening in the last stage. In such cases, one might need strong painkillers to relieve pain when fatty liver progresses into cirrhosis or cancer.
Fatty Liver: Risk Factors
Some risk factors make some individuals more susceptible to fatty liver development. These include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Having type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance
- Having some metabolic syndrome, e.g. high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high triglycerides
- Taking certain medications or steroids
- Alcohol abuse
Symptoms: Does Fatty Liver Cause Pain?
Fatty liver disease often does not have recognisable symptoms or noticeable pain until it progresses to the last stage, cirrhosis. However, pain in the upper right abdomen, even mild, is a warning sign.
Children with fatty liver often experience pain in the upper right portion of the stomach, which is right below the rib cage. Adults experience pain when fatty liver disease progresses to the inflammatory stage, which leads to liver enlargement.
However, this pain could indicate other underlying conditions, so it’s best to consult a medical professional as soon as possible and take proper treatment.
Some other symptoms to look out for are:
- Extreme tiredness and fatigue. While unexplained fatigue can be a symptom of many conditions, it is at the forefront of fatty liver disease.
- Nausea and loss of appetite
- Swollen abdomen and limbs, also known as oedema
- Rapid weight loss
- Yellowish skin and whites of the eyes, also known as jaundice
The HealthifyMe Note
While fatty liver usually causes no symptoms, it can cause constant dull pain in the right upper region of your stomach or all over it. You usually won’t have severe pain until your fatty liver has advanced to later stages. However, once the abdominal area starts hurting, the pain can spread from your belly region and cause chronic weakness.
Treatment and Prevention
Currently, no specific medications or treatments cater to fatty liver disease. However, depending upon which stage of the disease an individual is on, they can try to reverse it as best as possible.
- Losing weight is the best option to reduce the progression of this disease. However, losing weight too fast can end up making the condition worse.
- Refraining from alcohol will be able to help those individuals who are in the earlier stages of alcoholic fatty liver disease, such as inflammation or fibrosis. They might be able to reverse the damage caused to their liver or prevent it from worsening. However, there is no complete reversing cirrhosis of the liver in any case.
- Certain prescription medications can help through cirrhosis, as well as surgical options. For example, a liver transplant is optimal if the liver goes into failure mode.
Additionally, making critical lifestyle changes to treat fatty liver is of utmost importance. These include:
- Avoiding alcohol
- Eating a well-balanced diet
- Consuming smaller portions of food
- Regular physical activity
Fatty liver usually doesn’t cause any glaring or specific symptoms, but abdominal pain is a common warning sign Simple fatty liver usually doesn’t cause any pain in the early stages.
However, it can progress into inflammation, cirrhosis, or damage, which can cause severe pain. Seek medical attention if you experience persistent pain in the upper right part of your abdomen.