What is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
Fatty liver has risen alarmingly owing to genetic predisposition (insulin resistance) coupled with changing lifestyle. Unless problem is addressed in time, it can result in significant liver damage for those affected
Who is primarily at risk?
Patients who have the following – Type 2 Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, are Overweight or suspected Metabolic syndrome.
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
This is a condition that includes the presence of central obesity (fat in the belly area), Hypertension, Diabetes or impaired fasting sugar, high Triglycerides (a type of blood fat) and low HDL (the good cholesterol). Patients with metabolic syndrome have a higher likelihood of fatty liver disease and are at greater risk of having progressive liver disease.
Stages of NAFLD and Risks
Stage 1 Simple fatty liver (simple steatosis) – when the liver has excessive fat of more than 10% without any significant damage or scarring. The majority of people are in this stage, and usually do not develop any serious liver damage.
Stage 2 Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) – this is a more serious. The liver gets inflamed, followed by liver cell swelling and damage, leading to cell death. This can progress to liver fibrosis, liver cirrhosis, requiring a liver transplant
Stage 3 Fibrosis – some people with NASH can develop scarring of the liver called fibrosis. This gradually replaces healthy liver tissue, and can lead to further liver damage.
NASH is a serious complication and can occur in up to 20% of patients with fatty liver. NASH is more likely to occur in patients older than 50, women and those with full blown metabolic syndrome. NAFLD increases the risk of liver damage and is associated with an increased risk of cardiac disease and diabetes
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Symptoms
Liver cancer too can develop silently, and many times diagnosed only on routine scans such as ultrasound.
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Diagnosis
NAFLD is initially diagnosed by ultrasound and blood tests may show high levels of liver enzymes (liver function tests). Additional tests are often done to rule out other liver diseases.
How can NAFLD be assessed?
Early diagnosis of significant fibrosis is very important as it identifies patients who are at risk for serious liver disease, and appropriate treatment can be given to them to prevent further damage. Since the test is non invasive, repeat examinations can also be done periodically to assess improvement.
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Treatment & Prevention
- Lose weight, if you are overweight or obese
- Have a high protein & low carbohydrate diet
- Lower your cholesterol and triglycerides
- Control Diabetes
- Avoid alcohol
- Exercise regularly & increase physical activity. 30 minutes of exercise at least five days in a week is recommended.
Non alcoholic fatty liver disease is a very common but important problem, as up to 20% can develop serious liver damage. It is important for those with fatty liver to have periodic assessment of risk factors and the stage of liver disease, as this is the best way to prevent complications. The key is also in maintaining a healthy lifestyle with proper diet, plenty of exercise and weight management
Read more about treatment for liver diseases at Apollo Hospitals Click here