Have a symptom?
See what questions
a doctor would ask.

Fatty liver disease

Fatty liver disease: Introduction

Fatty liver disease, also called hepatic steatosis, is a type of liver disease and is most commonly the result of excessive alcohol consumption, including alcoholism or alcohol dependence. This is called alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is the most common form of alcoholic liver disease. Alcoholic fatty liver disease is often the first stage in developing or is associated with more serious diseases, such as alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver or alcoholic hepatitis.

Less commonly, fatty liver disease that is not related to alcohol consumption can occur. This is called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is usually diagnosed in people who are obese and/or have insulin resistance.

Fatty liver disease results in the accumulation of fat in the liver, leading to an enlarged liver. If alcohol consumption or other causes continue, damage done to the liver due to fatty liver disease can progress, lead to, and/or occur with the development of other related alcoholic liver diseases or liver diseases. Most commonly these include alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver and alcoholic hepatitis, which can result in permanent damage and scarring of the liver. These and other liver disease can critically affect the liver's ability to do its job to fight infection, stop bleeding, clear the blood of toxins, store energy, produce healthy blood, digest food and remove waste.

There are often no symptoms of fatty liver disease, especially in its early stage before more serious liver diseases develop. An enlarged liver may be present, but there generally is no abdominal pain or liver tenderness upon examination. For more information on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of fatty liver.

Making a diagnosis of fatty liver disease includes performing a complete medical evaluation and history and physical examination. This includes questioning about the history of alcohol use. An abdominal examination may reveal a liver that is enlarged and smooth. The liver is generally not tender or painful when pressed or palpated.

Diagnostic testing includes liver function tests. These are blood tests that can reveal abnormal functioning of the liver. Imaging tests that create a picture of the liver may include an ultrasound, CT, and/or a nuclear liver scan. Diagnostic testing also includes blood sugar testing and monitoring to help determine if insulin resistance is present.

In some cases, a surgical procedure called a laparoscopy may also be performed. This procedure allows the physician to visualize the liver using a special lighted instrument, called a laparoscope. The laparoscope is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen and moved into place to view the liver and send pictures to a computer screen. This procedure is minimally invasive and may include taking a small sample of liver tissue, called a biopsy, to examine for signs of liver damage. A liver biopsy may also be performed by inserting a long needle through the abdomen into the liver. This test is generally performed in cases where it is suspected that fatty liver disease has progressed beyond the very earliest stage and/or symptoms of other more advanced forms of liver disease are present.

It is possible that a diagnosis of fatty liver disease can be missed or delayed because there are often no symptoms in the early stages and for other reasons. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of fatty liver disease.

Fatty liver disease in its early stage is potentially reversible and curable if diagnosed and treated promptly. Treatment includes lifestyle changes, treating alcoholism or alcohol dependence, and possibly medication. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of fatty liver disease. ...more »

Fatty liver disease: Fatty liver disease can range from fatty liver alone (steatosis) to fatty liver associated with inflammation (steatohepatitis). This condition can occur with the use of alcohol (alcohol-related fatty liver) or in the absence of alcohol (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease [NAFLD]). More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Fatty liver disease is available below.

Fatty liver disease: Symptoms

Many people with fatty liver disease experience no symptoms, especially in the early stage of the disease. The liver may be enlarged, but this is generally unnoticeable by the individual. An enlarged liver may be felt by a health care practitioner when palpating or pressing on the abdomen. An enlarged liver due to fatty liver disease is generally ...more symptoms »

Fatty liver disease: Treatments

Treatment plans for fatty liver disease are individualized to best fit the patient's age, medical history, and underlying cause of fatty liver disease. The goal of treatment is to reverse, stop or slow the progression of damage to the liver and minimize and quickly treat any additional related diseases and complications, such as alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis of ...more treatments »

Fatty liver disease: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of fatty liver disease may be overlooked or delayed because there may be no symptoms in early stages. Some people may also delay treatment because they fear or are in denial of a diagnosis of the some underlying causes of fatty liver diseases, including alcoholism or alcohol dependence. ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Fatty liver disease

Treatments for Fatty liver disease

  • Abstinence from alcohol may reverse steatosis in patients with alcohol-related fatty liver. Weight loss and control of comorbidities appear to slow the disease and to possibly reverse some of the steatosis and fibrosis
  • more treatments...»

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Fatty liver disease:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Fatty liver disease?

Fatty liver disease: Related Patient Stories

Fatty liver disease: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Fatty liver disease:

Causes of Fatty liver disease

More information about causes of Fatty liver disease:

Fatty liver disease: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Fatty liver disease

Chronic digestive conditions often misdiagnosed: When diagnosing chronic symptoms of the digestive tract, there are a variety of conditions that may be misdiagnosed. The best known, irritable bowel syndrome, is over-diagnosed, more »

Intestinal bacteria disorder may be hidden cause: One of the lesser known causes of diarrhea is an imbalance of bacterial in the gut, more »

Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely to cause some level of diarrhea in patients. The reason is that antibiotics kill off not only "bad" bacteria, but can also kill the "good" bacteria in more »

Food poisoning may actually be an infectious disease: Many people who come down with "stomach symptoms" like diarrhea assume that it's " more »

Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it more »

Celiac disease often fails to be diagnosed cause of chronic digestive symptoms: One of the most common chronic digestive conditions is celiac disease, a malabsorption disorder with a variety of more »

Chronic liver disease often undiagnosed: One study reported that 50% of patients with a chronic liver disease remain undiagnosed by their primary more »

Chronic digestive diseases hard to diagnose: There is an inherent difficulty in diagnosing the various types of chronic digestive diseases. Some of the more »

Fatty liver disease: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Fatty liver disease

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Fatty liver disease:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Fatty liver disease, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Fatty liver disease: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Evidence Based Medicine Research for Fatty liver disease

Medical research articles related to Fatty liver disease include:

Click here to find more evidence-based articles on the TRIP Database

Fatty liver disease: Animations

Prognosis for Fatty liver disease

Prognosis for Fatty liver disease: Steatosis may be reversible with weight loss and/or stopping alcohol use.

Research about Fatty liver disease

Visit our research pages for current research about Fatty liver disease treatments.

Fatty liver disease: Broader Related Topics

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Fatty liver disease, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:


By using this site you agree to our Terms of Use. Information provided on this site is for informational purposes only; it is not intended as a substitute for advice from your own medical team. The information on this site is not to be used for diagnosing or treating any health concerns you may have - please contact your physician or health care professional for all your medical needs. Please see our Terms of Use.

Home | Symptoms | Diseases | Diagnosis | Videos | Tools | Forum | About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Site Map | Advertise