People Who Are Left Untreated for Fatty Liver Could Develop Cirrhosis

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    “Fatty liver is closely related to metabolic syndrome, which refers to people who have some degree of obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes and also those who have high cholesterol and/or triglycerides”, said Carolina Gutiérrez, a gastroenterologist at Hospital Metropolitano. In Costa Rica, this is the most frequent cause of chronic disease.

    Courtesy-Shutterstock/The Republic

    Late diagnoses, lack of timely treatment, or total neglect of the disease mean that at least 40% of people with fatty liver develop cirrhosis. “Fatty liver is like an abnormal deposit of fat in the liver” said Gutiérrez.

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    This condition is closely related to metabolic syndrome, which refers to people who have some degree of obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, and also those who have high cholesterol and/or triglycerides, according to the specialist. Also, the accumulation of fat causes inflammation in the liver, which can damage it and create scars. In severe cases, this scarring can lead to liver failure, explained Wagner Ramírez, gastroenterologist and specialist in liver diseases at the Equilibrium Medical Center.

    People who suffer from fatty liver do not experience symptoms, not even when the disease progresses, a factor that is determining why a diagnosis is often not received in time, so it is essential that those who present alterations in the metabolic syndrome consult a doctor. The first thing to check is the muscle-to-body fat ratio since if you have more than 25% fat, this is a warning sign. A professional way of diagnosis is through an abdominal ultrasound.

    The fatty liver condition can be reversed, so the medical recommendation is to gradually reduce body weight through a balanced and healthy diet. “It is important that this weight loss, which must be done healthily, is accompanied by regular exercise routines, without neglecting medical monitoring at all times”, said Gutiérrez. Similarly, it is essential to consult a specialist for possible symptoms such as abdominal swelling, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), and red palms, Ramírez warned.

    In the country, liver diseases have been increasing due to factors related to unhealthy lifestyles, which lead to chronic diseases, such as diabetes, with which it is closely correlated. Fatty liver is the most common cause of chronic liver disease; 20% of women and 30% of men over 18 years of age have this condition to some degree, Ramírez concluded.

    Fatty liver myths and truths

    Fatty liver is a disease that has no symptoms.

    True: That is why the population at risk of suffering from it, mainly people who are overweight or obese, should be studied to detect the disease in time.

    This condition can be reversed.

    True: By adopting healthy lifestyle habits, this condition is potentially reversible.

    Overweight and obesity are the only causes of fatty liver.

    False: Although they are the main causes of the condition, fatty liver is not exclusive to obesity.

    The disease can be cured with medication.

    False: The treatment of fatty liver is, mainly, physical activity at least three times a week, and a healthy diet, with restriction of carbohydrates and fats. Insulin resistance should also be monitored in some patients.

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