Fatty liver disease, often called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is a condition that occurs when there is excess fat in the liver’s cells. The term NAFLD is used to describe liver conditions that are present in people who do not abuse alcohol. This condition affects about one-fourth of people living in the United States, and it is the most prevalent type of chronic liver disease.
In some cases, NAFLD will progress to a condition called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a severe form of fatty liver disease that eventually progresses to cirrhosis and liver failure, resulting in damage similar to what is seen with alcohol abuse.
What causes fatty liver disease?
Experts are still uncertain about the exact causes of fatty liver disease, but there are some risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing this condition. Risk factors include being overweight or obese, having high levels of triglycerides in the blood, insulin resistance, and elevated blood sugar levels. High cholesterol, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, underactive thyroid, and problems with the pituitary gland can also increase the risk.
What are the consequences of fatty liver disease?
Over time, fatty liver disease can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, which causes severe scarring and is linked to a range of complications, including fluid buildup, liver cancer, and liver failure.
How is fatty liver disease treated?
In most cases, the preferred treatment for fatty liver disease is a combination of healthy diet and exercise, in order to promote weight loss. A weight loss of 10% of body weight is ideal, and some people may benefit from weight loss surgery. If you have diabetes, it is important to control your blood sugar levels to protect your liver. Lowering your cholesterol and avoiding alcohol also protect the liver from further damage. Those who develop cirrhosis of the liver may require a liver transplant.
- “I didn’t have any symptoms of fatty liver disease, but when I had routine blood work done, my liver enzyme levels were abnormal.”
- “I started to feel really tired all the time, and I had pain in the upper right portion of my stomach.”
- “I noticed yellowing of my skin and swelling in my stomach.”