A liver disorder is a condition that makes it difficult for the liver to remove excess waste from the body. When too much fat accumulates in the liver it can cause fatty liver disease. This condition usually impairs the liver’s capacity to work properly. This, in turn, can often make people feel unusually ill. Fatty liver disease, though, is quite common: it affects about 1 in 4 people globally.
There are two main types of fatty liver – steatosis and fatty liver disease (FLD). Steatosis is when there is excessive accumulation of fat in the liver cells. On the other hand, fatty liver may be caused by excessive production of cholesterol and blood triglycerides, which can lead to serious health concerns, such as type 2 diabetes.
The liver produces cholesterol and triglycerides through the portal vein. The portal vein is a thin, wide vein that begins in the abdomen and goes to the liver. The portal vein is often blocked, though, by swelling from fluid that builds up in the liver cells during an illness or from a blood clot. In these cases the portal vein enlarges and fluid leaks into the blood, causing high blood pressure (hypertension).
Another common disease is high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of liver damage, especially when there is an imbalance in cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In this case, the liver is unable to remove triglyceride from the bloodstream, which can lead to fatty liver disease and liver cancer. High blood pressure can also cause the gallbladder to enlarge into the small intestine. This makes it more difficult for the liver to process triglyceride.
Other liver disease symptoms can be caused by iron overload. Iron overload is commonly caused by iron deficiency or anemia. Another example includes chronic liver disease, which often develops after a hepatitis C treatment. Liver failure can also occur due to iron overload.
One of the most common causes of liver failure is acetaminophen use. Acetaminophen is widely used to treat acute pain, including the pain caused by a heart attack or liver disease. Some studies show that even regular use of acetaminophen can lead to liver damage, even though most users do not suffer from liver failure due to acetaminophen use.
Another possible cause of liver disease symptoms is protein production. Proteins are produced by the liver cells. These are part of the body’s immune system and help fight infections. Overproduction of protein can cause a build-up of cholesterol in the blood, which can cause blockages in arteries, such as the ones that supply oxygen to the brain. In addition to protein production, cholesterol can cause atherosclerosis – a buildup of cholesterol on artery walls, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
The accumulation of fat within liver cells can be caused by a variety of factors, including obesity, diabetes, cigarette smoking, increased alcohol intake, poor diet, and poor emotional health. A few other factors that contribute to liver fat accumulation are excessive triglycerides (fatty liver), increased protein production, and high levels of stress. Alcohol, specifically beer, is a liver toxin, and excessive drinking can increase the risk of alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Other factors that affect the liver’s ability to function properly include insulin resistance and thyroid dysfunction. Insulin resistance means that the body’s cells do not respond to the same signals as they should. For example, when insulin is released, glucose from the bloodstream is used to provide fuel for the cells. However, when the liver produces more glycogen than is required, the cells stop responding to the signals sent by the pancreas. Glycogen is converted into fat if insulin resistance occurs.
One of the most serious effects of alcohol abuse is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD. NAFLD is caused by over-production of acetaldehyde, a chemical in the liver that can cause both liver damage and, in severe cases, death. Acetaldehyde is produced in the liver when the liver produces acetaminophen, a drug used in treating chronic pain and cold symptoms. Common nonalcoholic fatty liver disease symptoms include abdominal aching, loss of appetite, nausea, and dark-colored urine. Liver disease experts believe that excess acetaminophen may play a significant role in the development of liver cancer. Other potential causes of NAFLD are exposure to certain pollutants such as vinyl chloride, pesticides, and alcohol vapors.
Fatty liver disease may also be associated with high cholesterol. When liver cells fail to effectively remove fats from the bloodstream, cholesterol is stored in the liver. When blood cholesterol levels are high, it increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and inflammation of the liver and arteries. Heart attack and stroke may be exacerbated by elevated blood cholesterol levels, which can lead to death if left untreated. If you have symptoms of either liver disease or high blood cholesterol, you should contact your doctor immediately.