The prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition that encompasses excess fat accumulation, inflammation, and liver scarring, is on the rise. Multiple factors go into developing NAFLD, and it has been linked to several other conditions. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the conditions that share a link with fatty liver disease. If you have PCOS, you need to read this.
PCOS Signs and Symptoms
PCOS is a hormone disorder affecting 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. Although the cause of PCOS is not known, health experts believe that PCOS may be due to different factors working together. These factors include insulin resistance, increased levels of hormones called androgens, and an irregular menstrual cycle. Common symptoms involve:
- Menstrual disorders can include absent periods, periods that infrequently occur or too frequently, heavy periods, or unpredictable periods
- Excess hair growth on the face, chest, abdomen, or upper thighs
- Severe acne or acne that occurs after adolescence and does not respond to usual treatments
- Multiple tiny fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries
Shared Risk Factors and Androgens
PCOS causes symptoms that are also factors we know to increase the chances of NAFLD. NAFLD can progress into the NASH stage, a more severe form of fatty liver disease. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is the stage of liver disease where chronic liver inflammation begins to damage and scar it-eventually affecting its functions.
Insulin resistance and obesity are both triggers for excess fat accumulation in the liver. In addition, prolonged exposure to high androgen levels may add to the problem. Androgens are typically referred to as male hormones and play a role in women’s health at lower levels. Growing research evidence shows, and without treatment, prolonged exposure to high androgen levels can lead to serious health consequences, such as:
- Heart disease
- Higher risk of liver inflammation and scarring
- Increased risk for liver cancer and liver failure without transplant
With so many potential factors working together, it’s no wonder that having PCOS doubles your chances of liver disease.
While fatty liver disease is serious, it’s possible to reverse and prevent it with diet and lifestyle changes. Eating a sensible, well-balanced diet and exercising regularly will help keep your liver healthy. Along with regular monitoring, healthier lifestyle changes help not only prevent liver disease but those already diagnosed with it.
There are no FDA-approved treatments for NASH; however, potential new options are under investigation in clinical research studies. To learn more about enrolling NASH studies here at Arizona Liver Health, call us at (480) 470-4000, or visit our website today!