Find out the fatty liver disease symptoms that can show up on your head, face, hands, abdomen, legs and feet.
If you have fatty liver disease symptoms, you may notice that you feel tired, weak, nauseous, or have a loss of appetite. These are all common symptoms of a buildup of too much fat in the liver, with problems occurring when roughly 5-10% of this organ’s weight is made of fat. (1)
In addition to these fatty liver disease symptoms that can impact your feelings of overall health and wellness, you may notice the effects in specific areas of the body.
Here is what to look for, from head to toe:
One of the head-based symptoms you might experience with fatty liver is hair loss. Both fatty liver disease and androgenetic alopecia—the most common cause of hair loss in men—have common risk factors related to metabolic disorders, with some pieces of research finding an association between the two conditions. (2)
How Fatty Liver Disease Can Affect Your Face
A symptom to watch for in the face area is yellowing of the eyes (along with yellowing of the skin). This condition is known as jaundice and, in 55% of the cases, liver disorders are the cause. (3)
Hands and Fingers
Moving down the body, a symptom to look for in the hands is red palms or palmar erythema.
This physical condition is caused by a dilation of the arteries, veins, and capillaries in the palm. And it is an often overlooked sign of fatty liver disease. (4)
Your fingernails may provide another sign of poor liver health.
Fingernail appearances associated with liver issues include:
- Being pale in color
- Clubbing of the nail
- Double white lines crossing the nails horizontally
- A dark band at the tip of each nail
Swelling of the abdomen can be caused by something as simple as gas, or it may be a symptom of fatty liver disease. In the case of the latter, the liver suffers scarring as a result of trying to stop inflammation. Over time, this scarring affects more liver tissue, causing cirrhosis, which can lead to fluid buildup in the abdominal area. (5)
You may also experience tenderness or pain around where the liver is located (the upper right side of the abdomen). The reason for this is that fatty liver disease can cause this organ to enlarge, ultimately leading to discomfort or pain. (6)
Fatty Liver Disease Can Impact Your Lower Legs and Feet
Signs of fatty liver disease can also show up in the lower extremities, usually in the form of swelling. This is known as pedal edema, which causes fluid accumulation in the ankles, feet, and lower legs, making these areas swell as a result. Pedal edema can appear with alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. (7)
Knowing what to look for from head to toe can help you identify whether liver issues potentially exist. If you notice any of these signs and are concerned about liver function, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. They can run tests to determine if your liver is working as it should or if its function is somehow compromised and treatment is needed.
(1) Cleveland Clinic. (2020, July 31). Fatty Liver Disease. Retrieved July 25, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15831-fatty-liver-disease
(2) Fallah Arzpeyma, S., Rafiei, R., Zamani, S., Rafiei, E. (2021). Comparison of Fatty Liver Disease in Men With and Without Androgenetic Alopecia. Journal of Babol University of Medical Sciences. Retrieved July 25, 2022, from https://jbums.org/article-1-9120-en.pdf
(3) Fargo, M.V., Grogan, S.P., Saguil, A. (2017). Evaluation of Adults. American Family Physician. Retrieved July 25, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28145671/
(4) Nautiyal, A., Chopra, K.B. (2010, July 01). Liver Palms (Palmar Erythema). The American Journal of Medicine. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjmed.2009.09.025
(5) Mayo Clinic. (2021, September 22). Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Retrieved July 25, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354567
(6) Medical News Today. (2020, February 05). What to Know About Fatty Liver Disease. Retrieved July 25, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/fatty-liver
(7) Sharma, P., Arora, A. (2020, April 05). Clinical Presentation of Alcoholic Liver Disease and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Spectrum and Diagnosis. Transplantational Gastroenterology and Hepatology. doi:10.21037/tgh.2019.10.02