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Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the build up of extra fat in liver cells that is not caused by alcohol. It is normal for the liver to contain some fat. However, if more than 5% – 10% percent of the liver’s weight is fat, then it is called a fatty liver (steatosis).

Support for this video was provided by Scientific Animations and the Allergan Foundation
Healthy Liver

HEALTHY

Fibrosis

FIBROSIS

Cirrhosis

CIRRHOSIS

Cancerous Liver

CANCER

The Healthy Liver

A healthy liver has the amazing ability to grow back, or regenerate when damaged.

Fibrosis

When treated successfully at this stage, there’s a chance your liver can heal itself.

Liver Cancer

Cirrhosis and hepatitis B are leading risk factors for primary liver cancer.

Liver Failure

Liver failure is a life-threatening condition that demands urgent medical care.

There are many different types of liver disease. But no matter what type you have, the damage to your liver is likely to progress in a similar way.

Whether your liver is infected with a virus, injured by chemicals, or under attack from your own immune system, the basic danger is the same – that your liver will become so damaged that it can no longer work to keep you alive.

Cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure are serious conditions that can threaten your life. Once you have reached these stages of liver disease, your treatment options may be very limited.

That’s why it’s important to catch liver disease early, in the inflammation and fibrosis stages. If you are treated successfully at these stages, your liver may have a chance to heal itself and recover.

Talk to your doctor about liver disease. Find out if you are at risk or if you should undergo any tests or vaccinations.


Who is likely to have Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease 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 non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

However, some people develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease even if they do not have any risk factors. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease affects up to 25% of people in the United States.

Read how Nick Giordano, a marathon runner, was diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.


What are the risks?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease may cause the liver to swell (steatohepatitis). A swollen liver may cause scarring (cirrhosis) over time and may even lead to liver cancer or liver failure.


What are the symptoms?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease often has no symptoms.

When symptoms 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.


How is it diagnosed?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is initially suspected if blood tests show high levels of liver enzymes. However, other liver diseases are first ruled out through additional tests. Often, an ultrasound is used to confirm the Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease diagnosis.


How is it treated?

There are no medical treatments yet for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly may help prevent liver damage from starting or reverse it in the early stages.

  • See a doctor who specializes in the liver regularly
  • Talk to your doctor about ways to improve your liver health
  • Lose weight, if you are overweight or obese
  • Lower your cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Control your diabetes
  • Avoid alcohol

How can it be prevented?

There are ways to prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Only take medicines that you need and follow dosing recommendations.
  • What condition do I have that suggests NAFLD?
  • Can NAFLD be reversed? How long can this process take?
  • Do I have cirrhosis or scarring of the liver?
  • If I do have cirrhosis – how far has the scarring progressed?
  • What kinds of lifestyle changes and diet can I make?
  • Would it be possible to be connected to a registered dietitian or nutritionist to make a specific meal plan?
  • What kinds of physical activities would be OK for me to do?
  • Is there a treatment or medication for NAFLD? Are there any clinical trials?
  • Will losing weight help me to get rid of this disease?

The more severe form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis causes the liver to swell and become damaged. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis tends to develop in people who are overweight or obese, or have diabetes, high cholesterol or high triglycerides. However, some people have nonalcoholic steatohepatitis even if they do not have any risk factors.

Most people with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis are between the ages of 40 and 60 years. It is more common in women than in men. NASH often has no symptoms and people can have nonalcoholic steatohepatitis for years before symptoms occur.

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis is one of the leading causes of cirrhosis in adults in the United States. Up to 25% of adults with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis may have cirrhosis.


Support Groups Near You

Visit the American Liver Foundation support group page here to find the closest support group to you.


Online Support Groups

Visit the American Liver Foundation online support group at Inspire…


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Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis

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Ben

Ben G.

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

 

Nick's Story
A Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Patient Story

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