What are the signs of a fatty liver?

Have you been indulging in too much food and alcohol lately? Do you feel tired all the time, even if you had enough sleep? Have you noticed yellowish skin or eyes? It might be time to check if your liver is working properly. One of the most common issues with this organ is fatty liver disease. Here are some indications that it might be affecting your health.

Understanding Fatty Liver Disease

Before getting into symptoms, let’s clarify what is happening in your body when developing a fatty liver. The condition occurs when fat accumulates within liver cells, leading to inflammation and damage over time. This can eventually result in permanent scarring also known as cirrhosis.

Fatty liver disease has two main types: alcoholic steatohepatitis (AH) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). While AH results from excessive drinking, NASH develops due to metabolic disorders such as obesity or diabetes.

Whether caused by alcohol consumption or metabolic dysfunctions, both types lead to similar consequences for our body functions.

General Symptoms

Some symptoms related to fatty hepatitis may itemize various other diseases such as viral hepatitis,toxins exposure ,autoimmune conditions like lupus erythromatosus,rare inherited storage disorders etc.These basic manifestations without doubt need prompt evaluation:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
    You will not always experience noticeable symptoms during pre-cirrhotic phase.In case there were , these generic indicators do occur remarkably commonly around one third people undergoing either NASH type hepatitis [1] .

Now let’s take a closer look at possible clues that distinguish between different stages of this illness.

Early-stage Indicators

Early detection can help prevent irreversible damage before it’s too late.Being able to recognize these early signs should send signals for lifestyle changes :

Abdominal discomfort

You might feel heavy, bloated, or achy especially in the right upper abdominal area(below the ribs).Irritation around this region would often be regarded as hepatomegaly ,a fancy word for enlarged liver.

Skin changes

Becoming yellow is one very noticeable symptom – jaundice.But even more prevalent sign of early stage could be itchiness.An itching skin without no reason sometimes signifies cholestasis where draining of bile from liver to intestines slows down .Retained substances can build-up underneath skin causing pruritus.

Moderate to Severe Stages

If you have already been diagnosed with fatty hepatitis,you may experience symptoms similar to those listed below:

Abdominal pain

Acute and intense pain around your abdomen(right side) a/k/a epigastric pain indicates inflammation within liver and surrounding tissue.If the infection becomes enlarged it causes tension on outer covering fluid-filled solitary sac- peritoneum.This results in sharp andchingpain.They are similar to that chronic diseases like biliary colic i.e gall stones stuck inside bile ducts .

Call your doctor immediately if you notice any extreme increases in either intensity or duration of pain that carry on more than several hours.

Poor digestion

As fats accumulate within hepatocytes,the tiny intricate transport networks which help distribute important digestive agents across gastrointestinal walls break down.Alongside pancreas damage(secondary),mild glycemic intolerance,abnormal intestinal flora,it leads to disordered nutrient absorption.Hence patients complain about unrelenting nausea,vomiting,foul-smelling diarrhea[2].

In addition,the body has difficulty breaking down any extra proteins inside our diets,giving rise ammonia excess.High levels of nutrients called collagen substance affect remaining structures such as joints,hair,nails resulting brittle hair syndrome.

Fluid Retention

Your body tends to retain fluids when cirrhosis sets-in.Whilst fluid retention can be helpful/protective to heal from disorders,in excess it starts exerting pressure on internal blood vessels that pool midway such as portal venous system.This another fancy word is portal hypertension .Abdomens start bulging and/or lower limbs swell up so you might feel uncomfortable since legs may become taut or tight [3].

Mental Issues

Fatty hepatitis will cause several neurological conditions due reduced protein synthesis capability.Close neural links inside central nervous centres called basal ganglia are harmed which results in uncontrolled shaking,twitches ,spasticity,finger movements etc.If things worsen,severe mental compromise sets-in termed hepatic encephalopathy(lethargy,chorea ,comatose states including muscle rigidity )


Whether you belong to either category of fatty liver disease,the earlier the diagnoses caught the better chances of successful treatment. As we’ve covered, there are physical symptoms and subtle clues when this condition arises. So if you suspect something doesn’t feel right with your body, don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare professional immediately.

Maintaining healthy habits like exercise,dietary monitoring,stress management,and avoidance measures for common causes of both types(AH & NASH) could make huge difference.Remember prevention rather than cure should always remain our priority!

[1] Wei‐Chuan Chang,Yueh‐Wen Lu,Jui‐Ting Hu,Ruoh‐Fang Yen.Treatment response at early stage predicts long-term survival outcome in hepatocellular carcinoma.Oncology Letters.Volume 11,2016 – http://dx.doi.org/10.3892/ol.2016.4145 .

[2] Klaus Dornisch,Gernot Zollner.Endoscopic Treatment Options In Focal Liver Disease.Frontline Gastroenterology.Epub ahead print no-en 2020.DOI:10.1136/flgastro-2020-101455

[3] R J Wong,.Therapeutic implications of targeting angiogenesis and the tumour microenvironment in metastatic colorectal cancer.Current Opinion in Oncology.Volume 33(4),July 2021,pp.285-292.DOI:10.1097/CCO.0000000000000805

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