Fatty liver alert: Swelling in these body parts can indicate severe disease

Fatty liver disease

Fatty liver alert: These are the body parts where swelling may occur during liver cirrhosis and indicate severe disease.

Fatty liver disease is a commonly seen problem that can impact one’s quality of life. Did you know? Fatty liver can develop into liver cirrhosis and cause irreversible liver damage.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Alisha Chaubal, Senior Consultant – Hepatology and Liver Transplant at Gleneagles Hospitals in Parel Mumbai, explained, “Fatty liver disease happens when there is an excessive buildup of fat in your liver. It is a common occurrence in adults due to over-consumption of alcohol (Alcohol-induced fatty liver disease) or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease owing to a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and diabetes.”

She elaborated, “Initially, this condition will not cause any major health problems and is easily manageable with the help of expert advice. However, as the disease advances, the liver undergoes serious trouble. It tends to get inflamed, and damaged as the healthy tissues are replaced by scar tissue impacting the functions of the liver. When there is complete damage and scarring of the liver, one is known to have liver cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer.”

Fatty liver also happens in alcoholic patients and is often referred to as AFLD (Alcohol-induced fatty liver disease). It even progresses to severe forms, MASH (Metabolism associated steatohepatitis, inflammation of fatty liver) or cirrhosis of the liver inducing liver damage, and inviting swelling in different parts or even jaundice.

According to Dr Alisha Chaubal, following are the body parts where swelling may occur during liver cirrhosis

  1. Swelling in the legs and ankles (edema) occurs due to increased pressure from portal hypertension caused by liver damage associated with fatty liver disease. This pressure buildup leads to fluid accumulation in the surrounding tissues, resulting in swelling.
  2. Abdomen (Ascites): The potent signs of advanced liver disease are ascites (meaning the build-up of fluid within the abdominal cavity). Liver inflammation and scarring cause high pressure in the blood vessels within the liver which is portal hypertension. This increased pressure can cause fluid to leak from the liver's blood vessels into the abdominal cavity of the person and he/she may get abdominal swelling and discomfort. It is always necessary to check this fluid to rule out other causes of ascites like tuberculosis, and cancer.
  3. Feet swelling: Apart from swelling in the legs and ankles, there can be Edema in the feet when one has a severe level of fatty liver disease.
  4. Facial puffiness and hand swelling can occur in severe disease.

Dr Alisha Chaubal shared, “When it comes to males, severe fatty liver disease can cause gynecomastia, a condition causing breast tissue enlargement. This condition happens due to hormonal imbalances because of liver dysfunction and is related to the loss of sexual desire and infertility. Swelling in these body parts can point to severe liver disease, these signs can mimic other health problems.”

She advised, “Getting a confirmed diagnosis and then initiating an appropriate treatment will be life-altering. A thorough evaluation including blood tests, CT scan, and MRI can help you to know the exact cause of swelling in the body. Making lifestyle changes like following a nutritious diet, staying active through regular exercise, and abstaining from alcohol can aid in managing fatty liver disease and mitigating its potentially severe outcomes.”


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