Understanding Fatty Liver Disease

drkmh Understanding Fatty Liver Disease


There are four stages of Fatty Liver Disease. Until stage 3 of the condition, the liver is able to function normally in spite of the disease. However, if it continues to take a beating it progresses into Stage 4, which is most severe causing liver failure.

The liver is one of the largest organs in the human body and plays a significant role in various life supporting functions. Maintaining a healthy liver is necessary for a healthy life. The liver performs more than five hundred vital functions. All the blood leaving the stomach and intestines pass through the liver where it is processed and broken down into chemicals and nutrients required by the body. Most of the drugs we take are also processed by the liver. Hence it is important to keep the liver healthy and functioning at its best.




One of the most common conditions that affect the liver is Fatty Liver Disease. A certain amount of fat is bound to accumulate in the liver. However, when excess fat gets deposited on the liver, this leads to inflammation, then scarring and ultimately liver failure, which is fatal. Fatty Liver Disease is the excess build-up of fat in the liver. Once the scarring has become widespread and the liver’s functioning begins to wane, the damage is irreversible and fatty liver disease is at its most severe stage.




There are four stages of Fatty Liver Disease. Until stage 3 of the condition, the liver can function normally in spite of the disease. However, if it continues to take a beating it progresses into Stage 4, that is most severe causing liver failure.


STAGE 1: Simple Fatty Liver


At this stage, the fat deposits have only just begun. It is harmless if it does not progress. Certain lifestyle changes and medication can even reverse the condition.


STAGE 2: Steatohepatitis


The disease has progressed from stage 1. In addition to fat deposits there is inflammation also. The liver continues to function normally. Through medication and proper care, the liver’s health can be restored.


STAGE 3: Fibrosis


The disease moves on to Stage 3 when the inflammation persists leading to scarring. However, the liver is still able to function and there is still hope to treat and reverse the condition.


STAGE 4: Cirrhosis Liver


This is the most severe stage. There is widespread scarring due to persistent inflammation and liver function is also impaired. Damage caused to the liver in this stage is irreversible. It is a potentially life-threatening condition.




Unfortunately, in its initial stages Fatty Liver symptoms are barely felt. Only as it progresses from Stage 3 to Cirrhosis, there are symptoms such as:

  • – Swollen belly
  • – Yellowish eyes and skin
  • – Reddish palms
  • – Itchy skin
  • – Enlarged blood vessels just underneath the skin
  • – Breast enlargement in men



There are two types of Fatty Liver Disease:


ALCOHOLIC FATTY LIVER DISEASE (AFLD)– Excess alcohol consumption leads to liver damage. The alcohol that one consumes is broken down by the liver. When the process of breaking down the alcohol produces some substances that harm the liver and cause inflammation and scarring. The more alcohol one drinks, the more damage it causes to the liver. This leads to an enlarged liver and then alcoholic hepatitis before progressing to the next two stages in FLD. However, in its preliminary stages, liver health can be restored if the person stops consuming alcohol.


NON-ALCOHOLIC FATTY LIVER DISEASE (NAFLD)– When non-alcoholics develop fatty liver disease it is called Non-alcoholic fatty disease. The cause is unknown. However, some risk factors are listed below:

  • – Having type 2 diabetes and prediabetes
  • – Being overweight
  • – Having high cholesterol
  • – Having high blood pressure
  • – Having certain metabolic disorders
  • – Exposure to certain toxins
  • – Having Hepatitis C infection



In the case of NAFLD, weight loss helps reduce fat and inflammation in the liver. Eating a healthy diet and avoiding alcohol, will definitely help with reversing the condition. There are no specific medications for Fatty Liver Disease but taking medications diligently for any other co-existing conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, will help. For those with AFLD quitting alcohol is the only way out. Discuss with the doctor on how to deal with withdrawal symptoms at home or at the hospital.


Dr. Adarsh Surendranath is a Gastroenterologist
Reviewed By:



MBBS.,MD.,DM Medical Gastroenterologist