The liver plays a crucial role in maintaining overall body health. As a glandular organ connected to the digestive system, it aids food digestion, defends the body, and eliminates harmful substances. Nonalcoholic hepatic steatosis, commonly known as fatty liver, is one of the most prevalent liver diseases, affecting over 40 percent of the population. Left untreated, it can progress to more severe conditions such as liver fibrosis and cirrhosis.

Hepatic steatosis refers to the accumulation of fat in liver cells in the form of triglycerides. Its causes include diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, and a high-calorie diet. Individuals at higher risk include those who are overweight, sedentary, or have a body mass index (BMI) over 30.

Symptoms of Hepatic Steatosis

Hepatic steatosis is often asymptomatic, meaning individuals may not be aware they have it.

While steatosis doesn’t typically hinder liver function, it can lead to hepatic fibrosis—an inflammation of the liver causing lesions and forming fibrous tissue.

Hepatic fibrosis interferes with proper liver function and can progress to cirrhosis, characterized by ascites, swollen legs, anemia, fatigue, skin bleeding, and jaundice. Cirrhosis can also give rise to liver tumors.

Diagnosis of Hepatic Steatosis

Hepatic steatosis can be suspected through objective examinations that consider the patient’s abdominal girth. It is often associated with metabolic syndrome, which involves the co-occurrence of factors like obesity, diabetes/pre-diabetes, hypertension, and elevated triglyceride levels.

Blood tests can assess liver enzyme levels, while diagnostic imaging and fibroscan can aid in detecting liver fibrosis.

Treatment of Hepatic Steatosis

Prevention of liver disease entails avoiding a sedentary lifestyle, engaging in physical activity, and following a proper diet. A healthy diet should include whole grains, vegetable proteins, fish, and white meat while limiting the consumption of red meat, sweets, and alcohol. In fact, adhering to the Mediterranean diet has shown effectiveness in weight loss and reducing steatosis.

Currently, no drugs are available to halt the progression of nonalcoholic steatosis to liver fibrosis. Therefore, lifestyle interventions, improved diet, alcohol abstinence, and physical activity are crucial.