Is Your Belly Fat, or Do You Have a Fatty Liver?
Does your belt seem to be getting a bit tighter? What we see as a little weight gain, gas, or constipation, could actually point toward more serious health conditions. Excess abdominal fat has frequently been associated with liver disease, which tends to have few or no symptoms. The lack of symptoms makes liver disease difficult to diagnose. When symptoms do arise, they are often unpronounced or go ignored. By the time you realize something is wrong, the liver may already have suffered significant damage, and it may be too late.
The liver is one of the most important organs in your body because it:
- Cleans your blood.
- Produces bile, making digestion possible.
- Stores the body’s energy as sugar.
Using imaging technology to look at the body can help identify some common liver problems:
- Benign tumors.
Benign tumors are masses found in the liver that do not spread to other parts of the body. They usually do not pose a serious health risk and do not need to be treated. However, if benign liver tumors grow too large, they may interfere with other organs and cause pain and bleeding. If that happens, you may consider getting them surgically removed.
- Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and
Non-Alcoholic Steato-Hepatitis (NASH).
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common liver condition in America. Affecting 20% of American children and adults, the disease causes liver cells to swell with fat. Associated with poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity, as NAFLD progresses, it develops into a more serious condition known as Non-Alcoholic Steato-Hepatitis (NASH). NASH is dangerous because it causes liver damage that it is nearly identical to that seen in heavy drinkers.Like hypertension, NASH is a “silent killer.” There are no drugs approved to treat the disease, and it is a leading cause of liver transplants around the country. Fortunately, if detected very early on, strict dedication to exercise and a modified diet can reverse this condition.
- Cancer or malignant tumors.
We are not sure what causes cancer, but the likelihood of liver cancer increases in the advanced stages of NASH. Liver cancer is among the top ten most common cancers worldwide. The average age of diagnosis is 63 and getting younger. Because liver cancer is asymptomatic and develops quickly, the survival rate is very low. Eighty percent of patients with liver cancer die within five years of diagnosis.
Take note of the following risk factors and symptoms of liver disease:
- Alcohol use and abuse
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Elevated iron content in blood
- Jaundice (yellow discoloration of skin and eyes)
- High triglyceride levels
- High blood pressure
- Low HDL (‘good’ cholesterol)
- Insulin resistance
If you believe you may be at risk for liver disease or cancer, Virtual Imaging’s technology is the first step in diagnosing suspicious liver masses and a convenient alternative to unnecessary blood tests. The scan is painless and uses electron beams to create pictures of the inside of your body. Why wait any longer? Request an appointment at Virtual Imaging by calling us at (770) 730-0119.