Fatty liver disease progresses asymptomatically in almost all sufferers until it is accidentally discovered during routine medical check-up or investigation for a different ailment. Secondly, most of the signs and symptoms are often mild, non-specific, and vary depending on the stage of the disease. The patients usually overlook these indicators until they begin to interfere with activities of daily living. Most common signs and symptoms of fatty liver disease are:
- Pain: this is one of the earliest symptoms of this condition. It is said to occur as a result of stretching of hypertrophic cells which irritate the pain receptor nerves in the liver.
- Anorexia (loss of appetite
- Nausea: This may be mild or severe and can be non specific.
- Vomiting: expulsion of ingested food mixed with bile.
- Abdominal discomfort: Patients refer to this as ‘queasiness’ which may be generalized or specific.
- Jaundice: this is an alarming sign that often indicate presence of liver malfunction.
- 7. Malaise
- Fever: Fever may be due to inflammation which occurs at a later stage of the disease.
- Ascites: Abdominal distention due to excessive fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity mostly seen in hepatic disorders. This is noticed at the later stage of the disease.
- Spider angiomas: tortuous veins appearing like web-like structures present on the surface of the distended abdomen of people with Ascites.
- Hepatomegaly: An enlargement of the liver. In the early stage the liver can be enlarged and felt when palpated during physical examination, but it is often smooth and non tender. However, in the later stage of this condition, it becomes hard and uneven.
- Pruritus: General body itching caused by excessive bilirubin in the body (jaundice).
It is important to know that a definitive diagnosis cannot be made with a single complaint of any of the above listed signs and symptoms. A diagnosis of fatty liver disease can only be trusted when a histology report of a liver biopsy specimen is positive and laboratory investigations reveal elevated liver enzymes in addition to triglyceride level above 10%.