'Ascites' can be sign of fatty liver disease - 'Symptoms may develop slowly or suddenly'

Fatty liver disease is sometimes called “silent liver disease” because of the few signs it shows until it has progressed. According to the NHS, one in three may be living with the early signs of fatty liver disease – they may just not know it. But when the disease progresses and starts to wreak havoc on your body it can display some conspicuous symptoms such as ascites, a medical term for the strange buildup of fluid in the abdomen.

Fatty liver disease is a broad term for the buildup of fat in the liver that can have multiple causes.

Hepatitis, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, and high cholesterol can all contribute to the buildup of fat.

food, 'ascites' can be sign of fatty liver disease - 'symptoms may develop slowly or suddenly'

Man with abdominal pain

Over time, the buildup of fat can cause liver inflammation, which over time damages your liver and causes scarring known as cirrhosis.

Cirrhosis and fatty liver disease can start to slow down the blood flow and damage the main vein leading to your liver, known as the portal vein. This buildup of pressure in the portal vein and the reduction of the protein albumin in your blood causes ascites, explains the American health body Penn Medicine.

The health body explains that Ascites can show up in your body as bloating or abdominal pain.

It states: “Symptoms may develop slowly or suddenly depending on the cause of ascites.

“You may have no symptoms if there is only a small amount of fluid in the belly.

“As more fluid collects, you may have abdominal pain and bloating. Large amounts of fluid can cause shortness of breath. This happens because the fluid pushes up on the diaphragm, which in turn compresses the lower lungs.”

Fatty liver disease is not the only condition that can cause ascites.

Penn Medicine explains that people with “cancers in the abdomen” can get ascites. This includes cancer in your appendix, colon, ovaries, uterus, pancreas, and liver.

Other than ascites, the advanced stages of fatty liver disease can show symptoms like yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes.

It can also cause:

  • bruising easily
  • dark urine
  • vomiting blood
  • dark black tarry poo
  • periods of confusion, forgetting things, mood changes, or poor judgment (encephalopathy)
  • itching skin

Most liver disease doesn’t show symptoms until advanced stages. But in the case of alcoholic liver disease, which is a form of liver damage, some symptoms can show up.

These symptoms may be “vague”, according to the NHS, and include “feeling sick”, “loss of appetite”, “fatigue” and abdominal pain (not ascites).

If you show any sort of symptoms of liver damage, it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible.

Fatty liver disease is “associated” with a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease, which each come with further health risks.

Diabetes and high blood pressure, for example, are major causes of heart problems.

In its earlier stages, fatty liver disease can be reversed but if you have cirrhosis treatment will only help to ensure you don’t deteriorate further.

As part of your treatment for cirrhosis, doctor’s will encourage you to switch to a healthy, balanced diet and stop consuming alcohol.

If you show symptoms of cirrhosis, you should see a doctor urgently or call 111.

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