Yes, fatty liver disease can sometimes lead to symptoms on the face. These may include yellowing of the face and the white parts of the eyes, spider veins, rosacea, and more.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common type of chronic liver disease.

NAFLD does not usually cause symptoms in the early stages. However, over time, NAFLD may progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) — a more severe form where the liver is inflamed.

This damage to the liver can start to cause symptoms in the face.

This article discusses signs of fatty liver disease in the face, what they may look like, treatments for NAFLD, and more.

Liver damage from NAFLD/NASH can cause jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. This is because, when not functioning properly, the liver can cause a buildup of waste material known as bilirubin.

When bilirubin levels increase, a person’s skin and eyes may turn yellow. Over time, the color can also progress from yellow to green. This is due to the green pigment present in bile, known as biliverdin.

The yellowing of the skin may be harder to notice in black or brown skin, but the white parts of the eyes will still appear yellow.

Rosacea is a common skin condition that causes the cheeks and nose to flush. Light skin with rosacea may appear red, whereas dark skin with rosacea may show a dusky brown discoloration.

A 2017 article by the American Academy of Dermatology makes a connection between rosacea and fatty liver disease, specifically NAFLD and NASH.

Having rosacea may be a visible facial sign of fatty liver. However, not everyone with rosacea has fatty liver.

Other signs of rosacea include acne-like breakouts, bumpy skin, and visible blood vessels.

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NASH can cause dermatitis, or skin irritation, including in the skin on the face. This is because chronic liver diseases can prevent the body from absorbing the mineral zinc effectively, causing a zinc deficiency.

Zinc deficiency can cause dermatitis, according to a 2022 review. Dermatitis may present as skin irritation that causes a dry, itchy rash with small bumps.

Itchy skin can be another sign of severe NAFLD or NASH. The itching may be localized to one area — for example, the face — or occur all over the body.

This itching can be distracting and cause an overwhelming urge to scratch the skin. However, scratching may not provide relief and may only increase irritation.

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Spider veins, also known as spider telangiectasia or spider angioma, are thread-like lesions that happen when capillaries just under the skin’s surface dilate.

The lesions appear as a red spot with red, vein-like extensions that radiate outward like a spider’s web. They can occur anywhere on the skin, including the face.

According to a 2023 article, multiple spider angiomas may be a sign of chronic liver disease, such as NASH.

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Acanthosis nigricans refers to a darkening of the skin folds, such as the skin creases on the neck. It can happen due to insulin resistance, which is when the liver does not use insulin effectively.

Insulin resistance can happen when chronic liver disease damages the liver, which in turn can cause acanthosis nigricans.

Acanthosis nigricans can appear in other areas, such as the skin folds under the armpits and groin. It may appear as dark, velvety patches with loosely defined borders.

If a person notices any symptoms of chronic liver disease on the face or skin, they should contact a doctor immediately.

This is because liver conditions such as NAFLD may only start to cause these symptoms in the severe stages of the disease.

A doctor can recommend treatments and lifestyle changes for fatty liver disease and offer medications to help manage any skin problems that arise.

Making lifestyle changes to manage fatty liver disease may reduce facial symptoms and even reverse the effects of the disease.

Lifestyle changes that can help NAFLD and NASH include:

  • reaching and maintaining a healthy weight
  • engaging in regular physical exercise
  • following a healthy, balanced diet
  • avoiding alcohol to prevent further liver damage
  • avoiding Tylenol (acetaminophen), as it can increase the risk of liver damage

In its more advanced stages, NAFLD can cause facial symptoms such as jaundice, itchy skin, dermatitis, rosacea, spider veins, and acanthosis nigricans.

These symptoms may be noticeable on the face and other areas of the body.

If a person notices facial symptoms of NAFLD or NASH, they should contact a doctor immediately.

Facial symptoms may reduce when a person makes lifestyle changes to address NAFLD. These include following a healthy, balanced diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding alcohol.