Mild fatty liver is another name for grade 1 fatty liver disease. This happens when fat builds up in your liver. Too much fat in your liver, called hepatic steatosis, can keep it from working properly.

Receiving a diagnosis of grade 1 fatty liver disease is the first step — and the most important one — in working toward creating a treatment plan. Having a treatment plan in place can help you stop fat from building up before it becomes severe or untreatable.

Read on to learn more about the signs and symptoms of mild fatty liver disease, what causes this condition, and what treatments are available.

Mild fatty liver disease doesn’t usually cause symptoms.

One early sign of mild fatty liver disease may include abdominal bloating, especially in your upper right abdomen.

Over time, fat buildup in your liver can cause scarring of the liver tissue called liver fibrosis. Liver fibrosis can cause severe liver damage known as cirrhosis.

As cirrhosis progresses, you might start noticing symptoms like:

Some signs, such as gastrointestinal (GI) tract bleeding, may also be found during an upper endoscopy or colonoscopy.

Your liver is made of hepatic cells that help filter toxins from your bloodstream and keep your body functioning well. When too much fat builds up in your liver, these cells do not work properly or can be damaged. Over time, this damage can turn into cirrhosis (irreversible liver scarring).

Fatty liver disease that’s not related to alcohol is called metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD) or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Many people have some level of normal fat buildup in their liver simply because of lifestyle factors and behaviors. Eating a high fat diet or smoking can cause mild fatty liver disease.

Fatty liver is also caused by drinking too much alcohol, a condition traditionally known as alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD).

Alcohol can damage hepatic cells and make liver scarring happen more quickly. This can lead to cirrhosis even if you have no other clear causes or risk factors of fatty liver disease.

Some of the most common risk factors for MASLD include:

Heavy drinking is the biggest risk factor for AFLD. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heavy drinking is defined as 8 to 15 drinks or more per week, depending on your sex assigned at birth, male or female.

Some research also suggests that mutations in your PNPLA3 gene can affect your risk.

Mild fatty liver disease doesn’t usually cause complications if it’s treated.

If the condition gets worse, you may notice complications like:

Over time, untreated fatty liver disease can progress and cause liver scarring and cirrhosis that cannot be treated. At this point, you may need a liver transplant to help your body function properly.

Untreated cirrhosis can be fatal if you’re not able to get a liver transplant.

Contact a doctor if you’re experiencing fatigue, jaundice, or atypical swelling in your arms, legs, hands, or feet.

You may also want to contact a doctor if you have a family history of liver disease, such as hereditary hemochromatosis.

You may be able to treat fatty liver disease by making some lifestyle changes, such as:

  • drinking less alcohol or not drinking at all
  • drinking more water
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • staying physically active, such as regularly exercising, at least 30 minutes a day
  • making dietary changes, such as consuming less fat, sugar, and salt
  • stopping liver toxic drugs that may increase fat buildup in the liver if your doctor recommends it

Here are some of the best ways to prevent mild fatty liver disease.

  • drinking little to no alcohol
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • following a dietary plan low in saturated and trans fats, which supports a healthy liver
  • managing your cholesterol and blood sugar levels to keep them within healthy ranges
  • getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity, such as regularly exercising, per day or most days
  • taking vitamin E supplements only if your doctor recommends supplementation, as it can interact with certain medications or lead to serious complications

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about mild fatty liver disease.

What stage is mild fatty liver disease?

Liver disease is measured in three grades, with grade 1 being the mildest and grade 3 being the most severe. Fibrosis is measured in four stages, with stage 1 being mild and stage 4 being cirrhosis. Mild fatty liver disease is both grade 1 and stage 1 fatty liver disease.

Should I worry about mild fatty liver?

Mild fatty liver doesn’t usually cause any symptoms or complications you should worry about. But if fat buildup continues, fatty liver can cause severe and dangerous symptoms. If you receive a diagnosis of mild fatty liver, ask your care team how you can prevent the condition from progressing.

Can mild fatty liver disease go away?

Mild fatty liver disease doesn’t usually go away on its own. But you can take steps to prevent it from getting worse or to reverse liver disease. Avoiding or limiting alcohol and high fat foods, and managing conditions such as obesity and diabetes can help reduce your risk of more severe forms of fatty liver disease.

Mild fatty liver disease is typically easy to treat if it’s diagnosed before fat builds up to higher levels in your liver.

It’s important that you speak with a doctor if you notice jaundice or swelling, or if you have a family history of liver disease.