Fatty Liver Disease, also known as FLD, is a medical condition of the liver in which large triglyceride fat vacuoles accumulate in liver cells by way of steatosis, which refers to abnormal retention of lipids inside a cell. However, an interesting catch to pain occurring due to fatty liver is that the liver, per se, cannot cause pain as there are no nerve endings in it!! What then causes the "pain" mentioned in caption of this article? Let's get to the roots of this mystery.
As far as diagnosis is concerned, this condition can be detected only through a blood test as the liver itself doesn't cause any pain. Hence, it would be wrong to say that your liver is paining. However, the area surrounding the liver may feel pain if the liver swells up and rubs against the organs around it. Pain may also be felt if the liver ruptures and bleeds.
This condition may be caused by factors as diverse as metabolism, nutrition, drugs and toxins, and diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, HIV infection, Hepatitis C and Alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency. Metabolism factors leading to fat deposit in the liver are Abetalipoproteinemia, Wolfman Disease, Weber Christian Diseases, Glycogen Storage Disease, Lipodystrophy and Pregnancy. Nutritional factors leading to such conditions are malnutrition, drastic weight loss, gastric bypass surgery, total parenteral nutrition, Refeeding Syndrome, Jejuno Ileal Bypass and Jejunal Diverticulosis with bacterial overgrowth. Chemicals and drugs such as Methotrexate, Tamoxifen, natural hepatotoxins causing conditions like phosphorus and mushroom poisoning, Diltiazem and Amiodarone are known to cause FLD. Treatments such as intensive antiretroviral therapy and alcoholism are also known causes.
Symptoms may include a wide range of signs such as upper abdominal pain, drastic weight loss for no apparent reason and constant fatigue. Usually, the latter two symptoms go unnoticed by the patient and this may cause the condition to silently transcend to further stages of complication. Upper abdominal pain is what arrests the affected person's attention and leads to an investigation towards a possibility of liver disease. However, the pain is of a dull kind, not acute enough to cause any severe physical discomfort or cause for alarm. As mentioned above, it is not the liver that pains but the area around it, owing to friction from the inflamed liver. Hence, it can be concluded that this stage comes after the actual affliction takes its roots.
On experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is advisable to consult a physician and request for blood tests, CT scan, ultrasound or MRI, to ascertain the cause. If the cause is discovered to be FLD, then appropriate treatment and medication should be started immediately.
Relief and treatment measures vary depending upon the underlying cause. Weight loss and exercise, low-fat diet and cutting down on alcohol consumption are easy ways to reverse or prevent FLD. Keeping an eye on blood sugar levels may ease pain arising from fatty liver in diabetics. Ursodeoxycholic acid is known to show improved liver function test results but its role in improving underlying liver complications is still ambiguous.
Your liver is a reflection of your general well-being. A healthy liver means a healthy you. From the above details, we can clearly see that the most common causes of fatty liver pain and most other liver related abnormalities are diet and lifestyle related. Making a few simple yet holistic changes in our daily lifestyles, like including liver cleansing and nutritious foods in our diet and devoting a few minutes towards exercise, may go a long way in keeping the liver detoxified and the body glowing with health. The choice is entirely ours!