Excess deposition of fat in your liver is called fatty liver disease. In the initial stages, fatty liver disease doesn’t pose a significant health risk and is easily curable but as the disease progresses, the liver suffers inflammation, damage, and the healthy tissues are replaced by scar tissue affective the functioning of this crucial organ. When this serious damage happens, it is called liver cirrhosis, and can further progress to liver failure or liver cancer. Fatty liver can be caused either due to over-consumption of alcohol (Alcohol-induced fatty liver disease) or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which is caused due to unhealthy lifestyle and the chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes. (Also read: Fatty liver: Harmful habits that cause it, ways to manage it in early stages)
“Metabolic associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD) previously known MAFLD or hepatic steatosis, occurs when there is an excessive buildup of fat within the liver cells, commonly seen in obese, diabetic or hypertensive patients. Fatty liver can also be visualised in chronic alcoholic patients often referred as AFLD (Alcohol induced fatty liver disease). In some cases, this condition can progress to more severe forms, NASH (Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, inflammation of fatty liver) or detrimentally to cirrhosis of liver which represent permanent non-reversible liver damage, predominantly presented with swelling in different parts or jaundice,” says Dr Sandeep Pandey, Sr. Consultant, Gastroenterology, Ramkrishna CARE Hospitals, Raipur.
As fatty liver disease progresses to liver cirrhosis and a non-reversible liver damage occurs, one starts to observe swelling in different body parts.
Dr Pandey in an interview with HT Digital talks about the five body parts where swelling may be visualised in cirrhosis of liver:
1. Abdomen (Ascites)
One of the hallmark signs of advanced liver disease is the development of ascites. Ascites is the accumulation of fluid within the abdominal cavity. In severe fatty NASH or advanced alcoholic fatty liver disease, liver inflammation and scarring can lead to increased pressure in the blood vessels within the liver which is known as portal hypertension. This elevated pressure can cause fluid to leak from the liver’s blood vessels into the abdominal cavity, resulting in abdominal swelling and discomfort.
2. Legs and ankles (Edema)
Fatty liver disease-related liver damage can also lead to portal hypertension. Portal hypertension occurs when there is increased pressure within the liver’s portal vein, which carries blood from the intestines and other organs to the liver. This increased pressure can cause fluid to accumulate in the surrounding tissues, leading to swelling in the legs and ankles, a condition known as Edema.
In addition to swelling in the legs and ankles, Edema may also affect the feet in severe fatty liver disease cases.
Liver dysfunction associated with advanced fatty liver disease and portal hypertension can cause fluid retention in the hands, leading to puffiness and swelling.
5. Chest and breasts
In males, severe fatty liver disease may lead to gynecomastia, a condition characterized by the enlargement of breast tissue. This occurs due to hormonal imbalances related to liver dysfunction. This may be associated with loss of sexual desire and infertility.
How to know if swelling in my body parts is due to fatty liver disease?
“It is important to recognize that while swelling in these body parts can be indicative of severe liver disease, there can be other medical conditions like heart or renal failure causing similar symptoms. Therefore, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention if you or someone you know experiences unexplained swelling in any of these areas. A comprehensive medical evaluation, including blood tests, imaging studies, and a detailed medical history, is necessary to confirm the diagnosis and identify the underlying cause,” says Dr Pandey.
How to manage fatty liver disease?
Early diagnosis and appropriate management are crucial in early stages of this disease thereby preventing the progression of fatty liver disease (MAFLD) and associated complications. Lifestyle modifications, such as adopting a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, and avoiding alcohol consumption, can play a vital role in managing fatty liver disease and reducing the risk of its severe consequences, says Dr Pandey.
If you suspect fatty liver disease or have concerns about related symptoms, consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.
Courtesy – www.hindustantimes.com