Fatty liver: consequences

10 March, 2019

The accumulation of fat in the liver can affect other organs

The most frequent causes of fatty liver (FL) not produced by alcohol are the following: overweight, increased cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose, and excessive intake of soft drinks. According to the latest research, it is currently considered that FL, in addition to causing liver disease, can affect various organs. Thus, patients with FL have an increased vascular risk (higher probability of myocardial infarction), cerebrovascular accident (stroke) and peripheral vascular disease (thrombosis).

Patients are also more likely to develop colon cancer. In addition, it is also a major risk factor for diabetes (double the chance of suffering). It has recently been shown that patients with FL frequently present a chronic kidney disease (it occurs in 20-55% of them).

For these reasons, fatty liver is considered a mutisystemic disease that must be treated.


There are two forms of fatty liver

Benign (only fat) and aggressive (fat with inflammation and destruction) with worse prognosis. It is essential to point out that the most benign form of fatty liver, if it is not submitted to treatment, can also evolve to severe illness. For the correct diagnosis of the disease and its treatment, it is important to distinguish between the two forms of FL (benign and aggressive) and this can be done through a liver biopsy.


Causes of fatty liver complication

The risk factors for worsening fatty liver are: age over 50 years, obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes and elevated ferritin levels. Another very important risk factor, independent of those mentioned, is the presence of a variation (polymorphism) in the PNPLA3 gene.

The genetic analysis of the PNPLA3 gene is very useful to know the risk of  LF progression. Obtaining the blood sample for this analysis is very simple since it is done with a small puncture in the finger (similar to the glucose analysis) and it is not necessary to be fasting. With the data obtained from the PNPLA3 gene polymorphism determination (low or high risk), the doctor can make the appropriate decisions regarding the treatment.

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