The main difference between an alcoholic fatty liver and a non-alcoholic fatty liver is in the cause of each, as the cause of alcoholic fatty liver is the alcohol overconsumption, while the cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver is generally unknown, according to WebMD. Non-alcoholic fatty liver is not always harmful.
Both alcoholic fatty liver and non-alcoholic fatty liver are linked to family history, according to WebMD. With alcoholic fatty liver, family history contributes both to the chances of developing alcoholism and the liver's ability to metabolize alcohol. Hepatitis can also lead to either form of fatty liver. Both types of fatty liver can lead to fatty liver disease, where the liver gradually enlarges and begins replacing liver cells with scar tissue. This condition is known as cirrhosis, and it can lead to liver failure or liver cancer.
Both types of fatty liver disease produce similar symptoms, WebMD says. These symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, weakness, nausea, confusion and other mental symptoms. In some cases, people with fatty liver disease also experience pain or patchy dark skin discoloration. If fatty liver disease advances to cirrhosis, symptoms including fluid retention, muscle wasting, internal bleeding and jaundice begin to occur.