Life expectancy with fatty liver disease is very important to know so that the overall health of a patient can be gauged, it will also help to understand the best treatment for the disease. Fatty liver disease is a chronic disease that can reduce life expectancy of the sufferer as the symptoms do not show from the onset but when the disease becomes worse, there may be symptoms.
The liver is the largest internal organ in the human body, it is found on the upper right side of the abdomen. This large organ is responsible for processing nutrients from foods and also removing toxins from the body. The liver is the first place blood passes through from the digestive system, this is done so that the liver can filter it before they are transported to different parts of the body. So any disease on the liver will affect life expectancy.
WHAT IS FATTY LIVER DISEASE?
Fatty liver disease or steatosis is the accumulation of excess fats in the liver cell. This is a common disease in Western countries that it affects about one in every 10 people. Normally, the liver contains fats but if the fat occupies more than 10 percent of the liver’s weight, then the result is fatty liver disease.
Sometimes, fatty liver disease does not cause any damage or problem but there may be inflammation of the liver. Inflammation of the liver or steatohepatitis damages the liver. With time, an inflamed liver becomes hardened and scarred, this condition is known as cirrhosis nd it can lead to liver failure.
There are two types of fatty liver disease, they are:
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
- Alcoholic fatty liver disease, also called alcoholic steatohepatitis.
What Is Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)?
From the name, this type of fatty liver disease is not related by heavy use of alcohol. There are two kinds of this type of fatty liver disease, the first kind is known as simple fatty liver, it occurs when there is fat in the liver but there is little or no inflammation or damage. There is little risk of this simple fatty liver causing damage and inflammation.
The second kind is nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). This kind has fats in the liver and there is inflammation and damage. The inflammation causes the liver to have scars and fibrosis. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis can lead to liver failure or cancer.
What Is Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?
This type is caused by heavy use of alcohol. The alcohol you take is broken down by the liver and removed. As you drink too much alcohol, the liver generates harmful substances during this process. The substances can damage the liver and cause inflammation while weakening the body’s defense system. So, as you drink too much alcohol, you are endangering your liver. Having alcoholic fatty liver disease is the first stage of developing alcohol-related liver disease. The other stages are alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.
CAUSES OF FATTY LIVER DISEASE
Some causes of fatty liver disease are:
- Overweight or obesity
- Abuse of alcohol
- Rapid weight loss
However, in some cases, fatty liver disease can occur even if these causes are not present.
WHO IS AT RISK FOR FATTY LIVER DISEASE?
You are at risk of developing if you are:
- Middle aged (however, children can suffer from this disease)
- Have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes
- Have cholesterol or high fats in the blood
- Have high blood pressure
- Take certain medications like cancer drugs and corticosteroids
- Have infections like hepatitis C
- Have rapid weight loss
- Have metabolic problems
- A heavy drinker
- Exposed to toxins.
SYMPTOMS OF FATTY LIVER DISEASE
There is no symptom of fatty liver disease especially at the early stage, so the only way to know is by undergoing medical tests. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) can cause damage to your liver for many years without showing you signs or symptoms.
In the late or worse stage, you can experience symptoms like:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Weight loss
LIFE EXPECTANCY WITH FATTY LIVER DISEASE
In a new study published in the journal Hepatology, a research group at Karolinska Institute shows that people with fatty liver disease are expected to live almost three years shorter than the general population.
Life expectancy with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is not life threatening or complicated especially if it is the simple fatty liver disease kind. You can live the rest of your life normally and naturally without complications. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is complicated and life threatening when it is steatohepatitis (NASH) and more dangerous when it turns to cirrohosis. Researchers have suggested that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can reduce life expectancy by 4 years.
According to MedicineNet, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can reduce life expectancy by about 4.2 to 4.4 years. People with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can live for many years but about 30 percent end up with damaged and scarred liver. Out of the 30 percent, about 20 percent will progress to cirrhosis which can lead to cancer and liver failure.
Life expectancy with alcoholic fatty liver disease
A person with alcoholic fatty liver disease will have his or her life expectancy reduced as the condition progresses. According to Medical News Today, an average of 1 person out of 3 people who have the most advanced stage of liver disease and cirrhosis are still alive after 2 years. When the body is able to manage the late stage (cirrhosis), the lifespan can be between 6 to 12 years. If the patient has less disease and is able to stay away from alcohol, then they will survive longer, they have 50 percent chance of living for at least 5 more years.
The model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) is used to predict the life expectancy of patients with liver disease. This model uses a person’s result on various lab test.
The scoring is:
- Those who scored less than 9 have a 1.9% to 3.7% risk of dying within the first three months.
- Those with a score of 10 to 19 have a 6% to 20% risk of dying within the first three months.
- A score of of 20 to 29 means a 19.6% to 45.5% risk of dying within the first three months.
- Those with a score of 30 to 39 have a 52.6% to 74.5% risk of dying within the first three months.
- A score of over 40 means the patient have a 71% to 100% risk of dying within the first three months.
- If the patient abstains from alcohol, then there is a long life expectancy.
Life expectancy with fatty liver disease that has progressed to cirrhosis
When fatty liver disease has progressed to cirrhosis, then there is severe liver damage. Cirrhosis is classified into 3 stages or types based on the Child-Pugh score. The score helps to determine life expectancy.
The life expectancy is based on the following score:
- Those with class A cirrhosis have the best prognosis so their life expectancy is between 15 to 20 years.
- People with class B cirrhosis are considered healthy and their life expectancy is 6 to 10 years. There is enough time to seek for help or get treatment like liver transplant.
- Those with class C cirrhosis are not healthy and they have the worst prognosis. Their life expectancy is ranging from one to three years.
HOW IS FATTY LIVER DISEASE DIAGNOSED?
It is difficult to experience or find symptoms of fatty liver disease especially during the early stage. The only way to know is when there is an abnormal result of the liver during other tests. To diagnose fatty liver disease,
The following are needed:
- Your medical history – Your doctor will ask how you use alcohol, if your fatty liver disease is alcoholic fatty liver disease or nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFLD), and the type of drugs you take.
- Physical examination – Your weight and height will be checked. Other signs like yellowing of the eyes and skin, enlarged liver will be checked as well.
- Blood test and biopsy – Your doctor will conduct blood count test and liver function test. A biopsy will be done to check how bad the damage to the liver is.
- Imaging tests like MRI will be used to check for stiffening of the liver and the level of fats in the liver.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENTS FOR FATTY LIVER DISEASE?
Currently, there is no medicine that has been approved to cure non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Your doctor may recommend loosing weight so as to reduce the fat in the liver. If your non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by certain drugs you take, you will have to discontinue using them. You can switch to another drug if there is needs for it.
For alcoholic fatty liver disease, the best treatment is to stop taking alcoholic drinks and beverages. You can see a therapist if it is difficult for you to stop by yourself. You can also take medicines that will reduce your cravings for alcohol or make you feel sick when you drink alcohol. If your fatty liver disease has progressed to cirrhosis and there is liver failure, you will need liver transplant.
Life expectancy is important to know the next step in giving treatment. Fatty liver disease can reduce lifespan if it is not handled very well. The best way to increase your life expectancy is to live a healthy life, reduce excess alcohol intake and keep your liver healthy.