Fatty liver disease symptoms: ‘Fine capillaries’ may appear on the surface of the skin

NHS Choices: Liver Disease

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Fatty liver disease is the term for a range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat in the liver. It’s usually seen in people who are overweight or obese. Fatty liver disease does not usually present symptoms in the beginning but the effects can be acute in the later stages.

The most perceptible symptoms of fatty liver disease crop up if the condition progresses to cirrhosis.

Cirrhosis is the severe scarring of the liver and poor liver function seen at the advanced stages of chronic liver disease.

According to the Diabetes.co.uk, if fatty liver disease develops to cirrhosis, “fine capillaries” may appear at the surface of the skin above waist level.

Capillaries are very tiny blood vessels that form networks throughout the bodily tissues.

Another late-stage symptom is build up of fluid in the abdomen, called ascites, which can give the appearance of pregnancy in either gender, adds Diabetes.co.uk.

How is fatty liver disease diagnosed?

According to the NHS, fatty liver disease is often diagnosed after a blood test called a liver function test produces an abnormal result and other liver conditions, such as hepatitis, are ruled out.

But, as the health body explains, blood tests do not always pick up fatty liver disease.

“The condition may also be spotted during an ultrasound scan of your tummy,” it says.

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This is a type of scan where sound waves are used to create an image of the inside of your body.

Am I at risk?

It is not known exactly why some people accumulate fat in the liver while others do not.

However, the complication has been linked to a number of unhealthy lifestyle factors.

According to the mayo clinic, fatty liver disease has been linked to the following:

  • Overweight or obesity
  • Insulin resistance, in which your cells don’t take up sugar in response to the hormone insulin
  • High blood sugar (hyperglycemia), indicating prediabetes or type 2 diabetes
  • High levels of fats, particularly triglycerides, in the blood.

“These combined health problems appear to promote the deposit of fat in the liver,” says the health body.

It adds: “For some people, this excess fat acts as a toxin to liver cells, causing liver inflammation and NASH, which may lead to a buildup of scar tissue in the liver.”

How to manage fatty liver disease

If you have fatty liver disease, you can make lifestyle changes to help stop it getting worse.

One of most important tips is to lose excess weight.

Bupa explains: “This can reverse some of the build-up of fat and even some of the fibrosis in your liver.”

According to the health body, it’s important not to lose weight too quickly, because this could cause problems with your liver.

Tied to losing weight is the importance of exercise in managing fatty liver disease.

“It may also help to reduce damage to your liver even if you don’t successfully lose any weight,” explains Bupa.

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