Fatty liver disease generally doesn't cause major -- or even noticeable -- symptoms. However, if the disease progresses to cirrhosis of the liver, the damage done to your liver could cause severe abdominal pain and muscle spasms. If your doctor has told you that you have fatty liver disease, you shouldn't ignore abdominal pain or muscle aches and pains, because they can indicate a rapidly worsening condition that needs immediate treatment. Schedule an appointment with your doctor.
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Fatty Liver Disease Basics
As estimated 20 percent of all Americans have fatty liver disease. For the most part, these people are overweight or diabetic. The condition seems to be related to insulin resistance. In fatty liver disease, fat molecules build up in the liver, causing enlargement and inflammation. The condition usually doesn't appear until middle age, although younger people and even children who are severely obese also can suffer from it.
Fatty Liver Symptoms
Most people have no symptoms, except for a vague feeling of tiredness that may or may not be caused by the fat in their livers. The fatigue could also be related to the extra weight or general poor health. In a few people, however, the fat in their livers can cause an aching pain in the upper-right side of the abdomen, directly below the rib cage. This pain is related to the liver inflammation. If you know you have fatty liver disease, and you start to feel this type of pain, you should discuss it with your doctor.
Disease Progression Symptoms
In most people -- some 90 to 95 percent of those with fatty liver disease -- the condition never progresses to nonalcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. However, 5 to 10 percent of fatty liver sufferers eventually develop cirrhosis and potentially severe liver damage. This type of liver damage can lead to a variety of symptoms, including severe pain in the abdomen and muscle spasms. The muscle spasms are the result of abnormal nerve function and hindered protein processing in the liver. Muscles need protein to function normally.
When you have fatty liver disease, your only treatment options involve lifestyle choices, such as losing weight and exercising more often. Unfortunately, no drugs have proven effective. To keep your liver as healthy as possible, discuss your symptoms and your diet options with your physician. In many cases, commercial diet programs that emphasize portion control have helped people lose weight and reverse their fatty liver disease. If you can control your condition and prevent it from progressing, it's possible and even likely that any symptoms will subside.