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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Fatty liver disease

Fatty liver disease is a condition that happens when fat builds up in the cells of your liver. It's very common but most people only have a mild form that doesn’t usually cause long-term problems.

There are two types of fatty liver disease:

Fatty liver disease can lead to inflammation, which if it gets worse can cause scarring and eventually cirrhosis (severe scarring) or liver failure. People with fatty liver are also more prone to problems such as diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.

Causes of fatty liver disease

Alcohol-related fatty liver disease

Drinking too much alcohol is the main cause of alcohol-related fatty liver disease. Drinking a large amount of alcohol, even for just a few days, can lead to a build-up of fats in your liver.


You're more likely to get MAFLD if you:

Symptoms of fatty liver disease

Alcohol-related fatty liver disease doesn't usually cause any symptoms until your liver has been badly damaged and you have cirrhosis or liver failure.

Most people with MAFLD do not have any symptoms but some people may:

Diagnosing fatty liver disease

You might only find out that you have a problem with your liver when you have a routine medical test or a test for another condition. This might include a blood test, a FibroScan, an ultrasound scan of your liver or a liver biopsy.

Treating fatty liver disease

There is no specific medical treatment for alcohol-related fatty liver disease. The main treatment is to stop drinking alcohol. You may also be referred to a dietitian to review what you eat. This is because people who drink heavily often do not eat properly and need advice and support to eat well. You may also be prescribed vitamin supplements for a while.

There aren't any specific treatments for MAFLD, but your doctor will recommend treating any medical conditions you may have because of your fatty liver. Also, there are several lifestyle measures that can stop it from getting worse.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Self-care for MAFLD

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2021.

See also:

Understanding your liver function results

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