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Fatty Liver Disease

Diagnosis of Fatty Liver Disease

Often a fatty liver shows up during a routine checkup. Your doctor might notice that your liver is slightly enlarged or see signs of a fatty liver on a blood test. Or, your doctor may suspect a problem after taking a health history or doing a physical exam.

Blood tests. During routine blood tests, elevations in certain liver enzymes may show up. These might include alanine aminotransferase (ALT) or aspartate aminotransferase (AST).

Imaging studies. A fatty liver may also show up on imaging tests, such as an abdominal ultrasound.

Liver biopsy. The only way to confirm a diagnosis of fatty liver disease is with a liver biopsy. This is usually done once other causes have been ruled out. After application of local anesthesia, the doctor inserts a needle through the skin to remove a tiny piece of liver. This is then examined under a microscope for signs of fat, inflammation, and damaged liver cells. If inflammation or damage is not present, the diagnosis is simply a fatty liver.

Treatment of Fatty Liver Disease

There is no specific treatment at this time for fatty liver disease. However, getting treatment for any underlying disease, such as diabetes, is essential. And you can take other steps to improve your condition.

If you have alcoholic liver disease and you are a heavy drinker, quitting drinking is the most important thing you can do. Find the support you need to be successful. With ALD, continued use of alcohol can lead to advanced disease, including alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis. Even for those with NAFLD, however, avoiding alcohol may help.

If you are overweight or obese, do what you can to gradually lose weight -- no more than 1 or 2 pounds a week. A recent study showed that weight loss of at least 9% over a period of months can help reverse NASH. Even less weight loss than this can help lessen buildup of fat in the liver.

Eat a balanced and healthy diet and increase your physical activity. In addition to limiting calories, avoid diets rich in refined, rapidly digested carbohydrates. This includes limiting foods such as bread, grits, rice, potatoes, corn, and concentrated sugar that is found in sports drinks and juice.

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