7 Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease

The liver is the largest organ in the human body. It is essential for food digestion, removing toxins and poisons from the body, and storing energy. When the liver becomes diseased, it can start to fail, leading to severe complications and death. Fatty liver disease is a common disorder affecting nearly a quarter of the world’s population. There are two types of fatty liver disease which are nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Alcoholic fatty liver disease occurs in people who chronically and excessively drink alcohol. The liver breaks down alcohol in the body, but a side effect of this breakdown is liver damage. Alcoholic fatty liver disease is the earliest sign of liver damage from alcohol. If alcohol consumption is not drastically reduced, it will lead to alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.

NAFLD unrelated to alcohol consumption. It is classified into two subtypes: simple fatty liver and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). A simple fatty liver does not result in damage or complications, while NASH causes cell damage and inflammation to the liver. This can lead to permanent scarring, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.

1. Fatigue

When the liver becomes damaged, the body will send more blood to the organ than usual in order to attempt to protect against further damage. This excess blood flow can result in excessive fatigue since blood and oxygen are being diverted to the liver from other places. In advanced liver disease, there are changes that researchers think occur in the brain. Hormone changes are also thought to occur which can lead to loss of energy and fatigue.

The brain seems to lower production of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for changes in mood, like depression. Depression is known to affect energy levels and can contribute to heightened feelings of fatigue.

Fatigue is a general symptom with many possible causes. For this reason, physicians may not attribute fatigue to a liver problem initially.