Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD) | Tampa General Hospital

Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD)

The liver normally has a healthy amount of fat, but it can become a problem if excess buildup occurs. When fatty liver develops in someone who drinks a lot of alcohol, it’s known as alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD). The liver’s job is to break down alcohol, but if someone drinks more than it can process, it can become badly damaged. 

What Causes Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease? 

Fatty liver develops when your body produces too much fat or doesn’t metabolize fat efficiently enough. The excess fat is stored in liver cells, where it accumulates and causes fatty liver disease. Drinking too much alcohol can cause this to occur, resulting in AFLD. 

What Are the Symptoms of Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease? 

The effects of alcohol on the liver depend on how much and how long you have been drinking alcohol. Generally, AFLD causes no symptoms, but some people may experience: 

  • Pain in the upper right abdomen 
  • Tiredness and weakness 
  • Weight loss 

How Is Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Diagnosed? 

If someone presents the symptoms of alcoholic fatty liver disease and frequently consumes alcohol, his or her doctor can often reach a diagnosis based on those facts alone. Of course, further testing can be done to confirm the diagnosis, including: 

  • A physical exam
  • Blood tests 
  • Imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scan and MRI 
  • Liver biopsy 

How Is Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Treated? 

In many cases, the effects of alcoholic fatty liver disease can be reversed by limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption. Doctors may recommend other lifestyle changes as well, such as losing weight and eating a healthier diet. However, if someone has developed complications such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), he or she may require a liver transplant.