I couldn’t believe it! My doctor had just looked at my ultrasound report and informed me that I had a Fatty Liver. I went through several stages of grief in just a few seconds. The most significant of those was – rejection! I had no symptoms! It was supposed to be a routine annual checkup and now I had something called Fatty Liver? I didn’t even drink alcohol – how could anything be wrong with my liver? Isn’t the liver self-healing? It must have been a mistake.
It’s true that Fatty Liver symptoms are often very subtle or none at all. And often by the time symptoms do develop, its very late. NAFLD is the “Non-Alcoholic” fatty liver disease and as the name suggests, you do not really have to be drinking alcohol to get NAFLD.
Unfortunately, It was not a mistake as a fibro-scan did confirm later. Fortunately for me, my NAFLD got caught at an early stage so I was able to reverse it relatively quickly. As I started to learn more, I began to understand that some of the “symptoms” I often took for granted – for example just “being tired” because I was working hard or “bloated” because I ate spicy food – actually were symptoms of Fatty Liver.
People with fatty liver disease often have no symptoms until the disease progresses to cirrhosis of the liver– The Cleveland Clinic
Fatty Liver is easiest to reverse when it is diagnosed early on. Hence, if you are having any of the following symptoms of Fatty Liver, it may be worth a conversation with your doctor. IGNORE NO SYMPTOMS even though they may be subtle.
If your eating habits are not at par, even when you are not over-weight I recommend keeping an eye on your liver along with the following symptoms that can indicate a liver disease.
Here are some of the common NAFLD symptoms.
Fatty Liver (NAFLD) Symptoms
Fatty Liver can happen without any symptoms. So “no symptoms” certainly doesn’t mean you are in the clear. Similarly “having symptoms” doesnt necessarily mean you definitely have Fatty Liver / NAFLD (could be something else). Also, “having symptoms” doesn’t indicate how advanced your condition truly is.
Tiredness / Fatigue – Most Common Fatty Liver Symptom
The most subtle, most common, and also most neglected symptom of Fatty Liver is “feeling tired”. Because I felt it. I am always exhausted and I attributed it all to my lack of fitness, my ADHD (being bored all the time), or just life!
Even after I knew I had Fatty Liver, I had no idea that my tiredness resulted from NAFLD. Only when my NAFLD condition started to get better, did I realize how much additional energy I felt throughout the day. Initially, I chalked the access energy up to coffee as I had increased my coffee intake (coffee is known to be good for Fatty Liver). However, as I got better, there have been days when I can go on and on without any coffee and not feel tired at all. What a big difference!
Chronic tiredness could be liver-related or something else. It is better to have a doctor take a look at it before jumping to any conclusions.
So, if you are feeling extremely tired – for no reason at all – it could be liver-related. It could be another reason so it is always good to consult a doctor and discuss possible NAFLD.
Unexplained Pain – Under Ribcage, In Shoulder Blades, etc.
I came to know of these symptoms on the Fatty Liver Facebook Support Group. Apparently, this is one of the most common symptoms of Fatty Liver. There are the following common pain complaints
- Dull pain under the ribs – generally on the right side (but sometimes on the left too)
- Dull pain in the shoulder blades area
For me though – I did not feel this symptom at all. In hindsight, I did feel pain in various parts of the body, however, I cannot quite put my finger on any consistent pain on the side of the abdomen or the shoulder blades.
Although people often report dull pain, I have also seen mentions of stabbing pain under the rib cage.
Bloating Or Nausea As Fatty Liver Symptoms
As you can imagine, these two symptoms can easily be attributed to simple things such as stomach upset, spicy food, or just plain “eating something wrong”. I cannot know if I ever got bloating because of NAFLD, however, I am certain that I never felt nausea.
People who reported nausea also reported that taking pills for symptomatic relief helped and they moved on. However, notice that this also delayed their diagnosis.
Itching as a symptom is rare in NAFLD or AFLD. However, it is common with other liver diseases such as Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC), Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), etc. As I stated before, my Fatty Liver developed almost symptom-free (except for tiredness), so I never experienced this symptom either. From what I have gathered in my research though:
- Itching can be any part of the body, however, arms and legs are most common.
- You can relieve Itching symptoms with the help of moisturizing creams, cool baths, and applying a cold wet cloth to the affected area.
Either way, a persistent itch needs to be looked at by a doctor. Itching doesn’t necessarily mean you have something liver-related, however, it is always better to check with a doctor.
Red Palms (Or Soles)
One other symptom is the development of red spots on (both) the palms of the hand. The red spots may be present only on the heel of the palm, but they could show up in the whole palm. Sometimes, redness could appear on the sole of the feet. Please note that there are other reasons why palms may be red – hormones, body temperature, allergic, dermatitis or infection, etc.
However, if liver-related, this is a potentially serious symptom and could be an indication of advanced fatty liver disease – NASH or Cirrhosis.
As always, get to a doctor as soon as possible and get this checked out.
Red Spots On Skin (Other Than Palm/Soles) – Not Really A NAFLD Symptom
Heard it, but haven’t seen it! Many people in the fatty liver support group on Facebook have reported developing some kind of red spots. These spots look almost like a rash. If you look online, you will not find this symptom reported in any fatty liver articles. To me, this is an odd symptom. As many people I have interacted with have talked about getting red spots. However, red spots on the body are also generally not considered a symptom associated with Fatty Liver.
Not sure if this is a real symptom of Fatty Liver. Many people have mentioned it on the facebook group, however, no online article refers to it.
It is possible that the red spots were related to some other problem (allergy, other liver-related problems). However, I thought I would report it here so you are careful if you are having these symptoms.
Other Uncommon Fatty Liver Symptoms
Based on my research, there are some other symptoms that you should be aware of with Fatty Liver disease. However I have seldom seen anyone reporting these symptoms, hence I thought I would include these symptoms for the sake of completeness:
- Sudden Loss Of Appetite or Weight Loss
- Yellow Skin or Eyes (jaundice)
- Swelling Of Legs
- GI Bleeding
- Mental Confusion
The most important takeaway from this article is that Fatty Liver is often a silent disease, which also makes it deadly. Most symptoms are generic. If you found that you have Fatty Liver early, you should count yourself lucky! I certainly do! Also, having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have Fatty Liver. Also, most of these symptoms do not provide any information about the progression of Fatty Liver disease in your body.
I reversed my NAFLD in about 2 years with diet, exercise, and a change in lifestyle. I may have done it faster if I knew I had Fatty Liver sooner, however since I had no outright symptoms I didn’t think anything warranted a look.
If someone in your immediate or extended family has liver issues, it may be a good idea to keep an eye on your liver.
One final tip: You should ask your doctor for a liver check if someone in your immediate family has a liver-related condition, especially fatty liver. I found it surprising how many of my family members had NAFLD once I started reaching out and asking around.
My primary sources of information for this article: