Fatty Liver - Causes

Not ready to share? Read other Patient Comments

What caused your fatty liver?

Share your story with others:

MedicineNet appreciates your comment. Your comment may be displayed on the site and will always be published anonymously.Patient Comments FAQs

Enter your Comment

Tell us a bit about your background to make your comments more useful to other MedicineNet users. (Optional)

Screen Name: *

Gender of Patient: Male Female

Age Range of Patient:

I am a: Patient Caregiver

* Screen Name will appear next to the published comment. Please do not include your full name or email address.

By submitting your comment, and other materials (collectively referred to as a "Submission") to MedicineNet, you grant MedicineNet permission to use, copy, transmit, publish, display, edit and modify your Submission in connection with its Web site. MedicineNet will not pay you for your Submission. You represent that you have all rights necessary for MedicineNet to use your Submission as set forth above.

Please keep these guidelines in mind when writing your comment:

  • Please make sure you address the question asked.
  • Due to the overwhelming number of comments received, not all comments will be published.
  • When selecting comments to publish, our staff will choose those that are educational and complement the topic. Please try to stay on topic.
  • Your comment may be edited. We would typically edit comments to make them clearer and more readable. We will remove personal information such as last names, email and web addresses, and other potentially harmful information.
  • We will not notify you if your comment has been published. We suggest that you check back on the topic article regularly.
  • We do not provide medical or healthcare advice, treatment, or diagnosis.

Thank you for participating!

I have read and agree to abide by the MedicineNet Terms and Conditions and the MedicineNet Privacy Policy (required).

To prevent our systems from spam, please complete the following prior to submitting your comment.

Please select the white circle:

What causes nonalcoholic fatty liver disease?

The cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is complex and not completely understood. The most important factors appear to be the presence of obesity and diabetes. It used to be thought that obesity was nothing more than the simple accumulation of fat in the body. Fat tissues were thought to be inert, that is, they served as simply storage sites for fat and had little activity or interactions with other tissues. We now know that fat tissue is very active metabolically and has interactions and effects on tissues throughout the body.

When large amounts of fat are present as they are in obesity, the fat becomes metabolically active (actually inflamed) and gives rise to the production of many hormones and proteins that are released into the blood and have effects on cells throughout the body. One of the many effects of these hormones and proteins is to promote insulin resistance in cells.

Insulin resistance is a state in which the cells of the body do not respond adequately to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin is important because it is a major promoter of glucose (sugar) uptake from the blood by cells. At first, the pancreas compensates for the insensitivity to insulin by making and releasing more insulin, but eventually it can no longer produce sufficient quantities of insulin and, in fact, may begin to produce decreasing amounts. At this point, not enough sugar enters cells, and it begins to accumulate in the blood, a state known as diabetes. Although sugar in the blood is present in large amounts, the insensitivity to insulin prevents the cells from receiving enough sugar. Since sugar is an important source of energy for cells and allows them to carry out their specialized functions, the lack of sugar begins to alter the way in which the cells function.

In addition to releasing hormones and proteins, the fat cells also begin to release some of the fat that is being stored in them in the form of fatty acids. As a result, there is an increase in the blood levels of fatty acids. This is important because large amounts of certain types of fatty acids are toxic to cells.

The release of hormones, proteins, and fatty acids from fat cells affects cells throughout the body in different ways. Liver cells, like many other cells in the body, become insulin resistant, and their metabolic processes, including their handling of fat, become altered. The liver cells increase their uptake of fatty acids from the blood where fatty acids are in abundance. Within the liver cells, the fatty acids are changed into storage fat, and the fat accumulates. At the same time, the ability of the liver to dispose of or export the accumulated fat is reduced. In addition, the liver itself continues to produce fat and to receive fat from the diet. The result is that fat accumulates to an even greater extent.

What are the other causes of fatty liver?

There are several identifiable causes of fatty liver that are not nonalcoholic fatty liver disease but may cause confusion. The most common are excessive alcohol consumption and hepatitis C. Other causes include

  • Wilson's disease,
  • lipodystrophy (a disease of fat storage),
  • starvation,
  • intravenous nutrition, and
  • abetalipoproteinemia (a disease of fat transport).

Several drugs also cause fatty liver, including

  • corticosteroids,
  • tamoxifen (Nolvadex), and
  • methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall).
Return to Fatty Liver

See what others are saying

Comment from: gardo5, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: March 07

I believe my fatty liver was caused because I drank alcohol when I had glandular fever. I had glandular fever when I was 21, it took doctors 6 weeks to diagnose whilst it was my 21st birthday and Christmas, I drank too much. I was told I was lucky, if the germ migrated 3 or 4 more inches I would have died. Since then I suffer same ailments, I had 6 biopsies, all say fatty liver or NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis) but not yet cirrhosis. For 30 years I am one short step to cirrhosis and shortening of life. Yes, I've also been tested for iron overload and copper overload.

Was this comment helpful?Yes
Comment from: Rick, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: November 13

I started with shortness of breath and found out I had mild emphysema which scared me bad. My doctor put me on oxygen at night and I do my nebulizers usually once or twice a day. It seems to be worse in the mornings and then I'm ok throughout the day but I'm still really scared. I know that emphysema is a progressive disease and it's different with everybody. I just hope I have more time than I think.

Was this comment helpful?Yes


Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!