Itching is not one of the most common symptoms of a fatty liver, but some people experience it. Today we’re going to go in depth about this matter and see if fatty liver can cause itching and/or rashes.
Itchy skin (pruritus) is sometimes associated with various liver conditions, including fatty liver (NAFLD). While uncommon, itching is one of the symptoms of a fatty liver, but it can also be an indicator of other conditions, including some not related to NAFLD.
As a result, an itchy skin alone is not enough to diagnose a fatty liver. However, if you have this and it doesn’t go away, you should definitely visit a doctor to get properly diagnosed, especially if comes in tandem with other symptoms.
Usually this pruritus (medical term for itching) is caused by skin conditions or allergies and not liver disease, as we can find in a recent study.
But if you already have a fatty liver, you should know that some of the people with this condition indeed experience itching. For some, skin rashes are present as well.
While itching is usually more common with more serious and advanced liver diseases, even a grade one fatty liver, which is the easiest to reverse, could cause it. This is why it is extremely important to get properly diagnosed by a hepatologist, ideally via ultrasound and/or MRI.
What causes itching with fatty liver?
The real causes of pruritus when associated with liver disease are not fully known.
Various studies on the matter have been conducted, without any clear results or findings. The medical community did not agree upon the causes of itching with fatty liver, but the most common reasons for this are (source here):
- increased concentration of bile salts
- increased histamine levels
- differences in progesterone levels
Other potential causes for it could be things that doctors certainly know and understand better than regular folks. Things like endogenous opioids and LPA (lysophosphatidic acid) are considered to be behind the itching.
In plain words, my doctor told me that “it’s basically a lot of toxins that are evited by our body through the skin, making it itch.”
But no matter what the main cause behind this is, itching is real and sometimes associated with fatty liver. We have people on our fatty liver support group reporting it, including various rashes that accompany it.
However, in some of these cases, the actual reason behind the itching is different (from allergies to other skin conditions). This is why I have to repeat: it’s extremely important, if you have these symptoms, to visit a doctor and find out exactly what causes them in order to know how to treat them.
How to get rid of itching related to a fatty liver?
The best way to get rid of this NAFLD-related pruritus is to reverse your fatty liver by following a proper diet for it.
Reversing your fatty liver doesn’t happen overnight, though. And even though, based on my own experience, all the symptoms improve as soon as one-two weeks of healthy eating and living, you might want some other ways to scratch the itch without actually doing it.
For that, we have various over the counter creams and ointments that could help you, including antihistamines and other types of creams with various ingredients, from corticosteroids to natural ingredients.
Oral medication might be an option too – although in this case, taking extra pills will put additional pressure on the liver so it’s usually not done.
However, you should only take any of these medication after a visit to the doctor and only based on their recommendations. Never try to self treat using medicine (even OTC) especially if you don’t have a proper diagnosis.
Other things you can try to relief itching with fatty liver are:
– not scratching. The more you scratch, the more it will itch so you will not accomplish anything – just risk getting the scratches infected.
– take quick showers with warm water instead of long baths of showers with hot (or cold) water.
– apply moisturizing creams or lotions. Choose hypoallergenic products with no fragrances
– apply a warm, wet cloth on the area that ithces.
– wear loose clothes or, if possible, try not to cover with clothes the area that itches.
The methods above might work or not – you should try and see which works best for you.
Combine these with eating a clean diet and exercising, and you will get past the problems, as long as they are related with a fatty liver. The sooner you start dieting, the sooner you will get rid of all the symptoms, including itching.