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Diseases & Conditions
Should I be worried about fatty liver disease?
- By Howard E. LeWine, MD, Chief Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
Q. An ultrasound test showed I have a fatty liver. Am I at risk for cirrhosis? What about liver cancer? How much alcohol can I safely drink with this condition?
A. While drinking excessive alcohol can lead to a fatty liver (too much fat buildup in the liver cells), a more common condition is called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is fatty liver not caused by alcohol intake. There are two types of NAFLD: simple fatty liver and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Simple fatty liver means you have extra fat in the liver, but it doesn’t cause inflammation or hurt your liver cells. NASH is more serious and occurs when fattened cells become inflamed. This inflammation can damage liver cells and result in cirrhosis (permanent scarring of the liver). Having cirrhosis from any cause increases the risk of liver cancer.
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