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Fatty liver

Fatty liver is common. It is particularly common in people with diabetes and in people who are overweight. While it might not cause any symptoms, it can lead to significant health problems.

The liver is the body’s main organ for processing food and waste materials.

A healthy liver contains very little or no fat. If you drink too much alcohol, or eat too much food, your body deals with this excess by turning some of the calories into fat. This fat is then stored in liver cells.

The fat in liver cells can accumulate. If there is too much, you have fatty liver.

In many people, fatty liver by itself doesn’t cause too many problems. However, in some other people, the fatty liver gets inflamed. Over time, this slowly gets worse and leads to scarring of the liver, which can lead to cirrhosis. This is a serious illness.

A few people who get cirrhosis of the liver develop liver cancer.

Fatty liver can be a sign of too much alcohol, but in most cases, it is not alcohol-related. This is called ‘non-alcoholic fatty liver disease’ (NAFLD ). Very often, fatty liver is a sign of other problems like diabetes or metabolic syndrome.

People with fatty liver have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Fortunately, there are ways to treat fatty liver and reduce the problems it causes.

Last reviewed: March 2017

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