The facts about Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
- As incredible as it may seem in pure numbers,Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) affects up to 25% of people in the United States.
- NAFLD is the build-up of extra fat in liver cells that isn’t caused by alcohol. It’s normal for the liver to contain some fat. However, if more than 5 to 10% of the liver’s weight is fat, then it’s called a fatty liver (steatosis).
- Who is likely to have NAFLD? It tends to develop in people who are overweight or obese, or have diabetes, high cholesterol or high triglycerides. Rapid weight loss and poor eating habits also may lead to NAFLD. But some people develop NAFLD even if they don’t have any risk factors.
- Serious risks are linked to NAFLD. It may cause the liver to swell (steatohepatitis).Over time, a swollen liver may cause scarring (cirrhosis)—and may even lead to liver cancer or liver failure.
- Strangely, NAFLD often has no symptoms. But when symptoms do occur, they may include fatigue, weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, spider-like blood vessels, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), itching, fluid build-up and swelling of the legs (edema) and abdomen (ascites), and mental confusion.
- If there are no obvious symptoms, or if the symptoms may be due to any number of illnesses, how is NAFLD diagnosed? NAFLD is initially suspected if blood tests show high levels of liver enzymes. But, to be sure, other liver diseases are first ruled out through additional tests. Often, an ultrasound is used to confirm the NAFLD diagnosis.
- How many kinds of treatments are there for NAFLD? How about none? In reality, that there are no medical treatments yet for NAFLD.
- So if there are no known medical ways to cure NAFLD, can it be treated and, better yet, prevented? Yes, the good news is there are steps you can take to improve the health of your liver!
– Eat a healthy diet
– Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese
– Exercise regularly
– Control your diabetes
– Avoid or at least limit alcohol intake
– Only take medicines that you need, and carefully follow dosing recommendations
– Try to lower your cholesterol and triglycerides
- The more severe form of NAFLD is called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Most people with NASH are between the ages of 40 and 60. It’s more common in women than in men. Like NAFLD, NASH often has no symptoms and people can have it for years before symptoms occur. NASH is one of the leading causes of cirrhosis in adults in the United States. Up to 25% of adults with NASH may have cirrhosis.
MORE INFORMATION IF YOU HAVE NAFLD OR NASH: Learning that you have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, you’ll have a lot of questions. The American Liver Foundation is here to help.
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