You're wise to wonder about steps to protect your liver. Diabetes raises your risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition in which excess fat builds up in your liver even if you drink little or no alcohol. This condition occurs in at least half of those with type 2 diabetes and close to half of those with type 1. Other medical conditions related to diabetes — including obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure — also raise your risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Fatty liver disease itself often causes no symptoms. But it raises your risk of developing liver inflammation or scarring (cirrhosis). It's also linked to an increased risk of liver cancer and heart disease.
Your best defense against fatty liver disease includes these strategies:
- Work with your health care team to achieve good control of your blood sugar.
- Lose weight if you need to, and try to maintain a healthy weight.
- Take steps to reduce high blood pressure.
- Keep your low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol and triglycerides — a type of blood fat — within recommended limits.
- Don't drink too much alcohol.
If you have diabetes, your doctor may recommend an ultrasound examination of your liver when you're first diagnosed and regular follow-up blood tests to monitor your liver function.
Oct. 18, 2011
- Smith BW, et al. Nonalcoholic liver disease and diabetes mellitus: Pathogenesis and treatment. Nature Reviews Endocrinology. In press. Accessed June 27, 2011.
- Feldstein AE, et al. Fatty liver disease. The American College of Gastroenterology. http://www.gi.org/patients/gihealth/fld.asp. Accessed June 27, 2011.
- Ismail MH. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: The hidden epidemic. The American Journal of Medical Sciences. 2011;341:485.