Fatty liver disease is a health condition in which excess fat is stored in your liver.
It is nonalcoholic because the buildup of fat is not caused by heavy alcohol use.
When heavy alcohol use causes fat to build up in the liver, this condition is called alcoholic liver disease.
Monica Konerman, M.D., MSc from Michigan Medicine, provides useful information about the disease.
There are two types of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. The most common is referred to simply as NAFLD, or simple fatty liver, in which fat builds up in the liver without inflammation.
The second type is called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which occurs when inflammation and cell injury or scar tissue are present.
Recent studies have found up to 30% of the U.S. population, or 80 million Americans, have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. It may be the top reason for liver transplants in the future.
While researchers are still working to identify what causes the disease, they think insulin plays a role.
There are seven big risk factors that lead to fatty liver disease and warrant testing:
High blood pressure
Both types of fatty liver disease can be silent. Patients may not show symptoms, but they suffer fatigue and discomfort in the upper right part of the abdomen.
It is important to ask your doctor for a liver function blood test, such as the ALT and AST tests, which check for certain enzymes in the liver.
If the test numbers are high, that means some damage to the liver. Your doctor may then use a clinical calculator to determine the severity of liver damage.
If those calculations are low, it shows that while liver damage may be present, you have a lot of time to work on the disease with your doctor.
As long as you are committed to the nutritional and exercise advice, your liver is going to be healthy and happy.
If the calculated score is high, you may have developed scar tissue and it’s time for you to talk to a specialist.
You may also need an ultrasound, CT or MRI to help diagnose fatty liver disease. The imaging tests can show fat in your liver.
But these tests can’t show inflammation or fibrosis, so your doctor can’t use these tests to find out whether you have simple fatty liver or NASH.
If you have cirrhosis, imaging tests may show nodules, or lumps, on your liver.
Lifestyle changes can help treat fatty liver diseases, including losing weight, exercising and avoiding alcohol. For NASH, patients may also be given vitamin E to reduce inflammation.
In addition, the researcher suggests that baby boomers born between 1945 to 1965 and are at high risk of having hepatitis C need to do a liver function blood test.
If the disease is left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to liver damage, cirrhosis, and liver cancer — and can even require a transplant.
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