In people with fatty liver disease, there are deposits of fat inside the liver. These deposits can inhibit the liver's ability to remove toxins from the blood. Causes of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high blood lipid levels (cholesterol and triglyceride). Alcohol can also raise the risk of fatty liver disease.
When fatty liver disease progresses to cause cirrhosis (liver scarring) and inflammation and impairs liver function significantly, a patient may need a liver transplant. In fact, the number of liver transplants performed in people with fatty liver disease and cirrhosis has risen significantly in the last decade.
The Center for Advanced Digestive Care (CADC) at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center is a leader in the care of patients with fatty liver disease, offering the latest therapies, comprehensive care, access to liver transplantation, and opportunities to participate in clinical trials.
Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease
Many people with fatty liver disease have no symptoms. But when it progresses to cause inflammation, patients may experience:
- Weight loss
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
- Persistent itching
- Spiderlike blood vessels in the skin
Patients with cirrhosis may also retain water and experience confusion.
Diagnosis of Fatty Liver Disease
Doctors at the CADC use the following tests to diagnose fatty liver disease:
- Imaging tests - to see if there are fat deposits in the liver
- Liver biopsy - examination of a small amount of liver tissue obtained through a long needle inserted through the skin and into the liver
- Blood tests - to look for elevated liver enzymes and other chemicals in the blood that serve as markers of liver function
Treatment of Fatty Liver Disease
For people with fatty liver disease, the CADC's hepatologists (liver specialists), gastroenterologists, nutrition specialists, and other members of the healthcare team recommend diet and exercise changes to achieve weight loss. These approaches are able not only to halt the progression of fatty liver disuse, but even improve liver health. Some patients benefit from vitamin E therapy or medication.
For those with liver cirrhosis who require liver transplantation, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is one of the world's leading centers for liver transplantation, offering multidisciplinary care and achieving excellent outcomes.