A liver biopsy is the only sure way to know if you have a fatty liver.
The liver is required for digesting nutrients, regulating hormones, and detoxifying the body, making it a critical organ for overall health.
Fatty Liver and Complications
An unhealthy lifestyle can lead to fat accumulation in the liver—a condition called fatty liver. The early stages of fatty liver are called NAFLD when the liver can function normally but will deteriorate unless NAFLD is detected and controlled.
- If more fat accumulates, the liver develops inflammation leading to NASH, a condition worse than NAFLD.
- If the inflammation persists long, scar tissue accumulates in the liver, reducing its elasticity and developing liver fibrosis. Such a liver starts failing in some of its functions.
- When scarring spreads through the whole liver, a severe and irreversible condition called liver cirrhosis develops.
Many people with obesity, type 2 diabetes, or high blood fats (lipids) have a fatty liver without knowing about it because there are no symptoms in the early stages.
Diagnosing a Fatty Liver
- Liver Profile Blood Tests: Blood levels of liver enzymes SGOT (AST) and SGPT (ALT) are increased when the liver is inflamed, which happens in NASH and, occasionally, in the NAFLD stage of fatty liver. But excessive alcohol drinking, obesity, heart attack, diabetes, and muscle injuries can also increase SGOT/SGPT levels. So abnormal liver enzyme levels cannot confirm a fatty liver.
- Liver Ultrasound: An liver ultrasound scan can be more predictive of fatty liver. However, excess obesity can be misinterpreted as fatty liver on ultrasound.
- Liver Biopsy: A liver biopsy is the best way (Gold standard) to confirm fatty liver. Unfortunately, it is an invasive test that involves taking a small piece of liver from the abdominal cavity. So it is not considered appropriate for detecting the early stages of fatty liver.
Thus, no simple, single test can confirm a fatty liver. But if your liver enzyme blood tests come abnormal, don’t ignore the possibility. Consult your doctor, who will start with your symptoms and history, and may proceed with an ultrasound, Fibroscan (liver elasticity test), or liver biopsy.
To Read More
- National Institutes of Health: Diagnosis of NAFLD & NASH
- Mayo Clinic: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- MSD Manual: Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
- On this Website: Supplements for fatty liver
- On this website: Most diabetics have fatty liver and cirrhosis
First Published on: 30th April 2023
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