Have You Been Told You Have Fatty Liver?
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is when fat builds up in liver cells. This can progress to inflammation and damaged liver cells, called Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis or NASH. It is well known that liver injury can occur in people who consume excessive amounts of alcohol, but NAFLD and NASH occur in people who do not drink large amounts of alcohol.
NASH is worrisome because it can progress to cirrhosis, and even liver cancer. In 2019, 20 million people in the United States had NASH. This number is expected to climb to over 32 million by the year 2030.
Most people who have fatty liver disease are without any symptoms, and therefore, are not aware they even have NAFLD. It is best to diagnose NAFLD before it progresses to NASH.
How To Get Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of NAFLD can be made by X-Ray, such as an MRI or Fibroscan (Ultrasound of the liver). A liver biopsy, to remove tissue for exam under a microscope, is required to diagnose NASH. Obtaining a biopsy is not without risks. Therefore, newer methods are currently being used, such as blood tests and x-rays that measure liver stiffness.
Who is at Risk For NAFLD & NASH?
NAFLD and NASH are associated with the following conditions:
- High Cholesterol
- High Blood Pressure
- Type 2 Diabetes
Over 80% of patients with NAFLD and NASH have obesity and over 70% of NASH patients have elevated cholesterol levels. Diabetes type 2 is found in 44 % of NASH patients.
How Do I Manage My Condition if I Have NAFLD?
- Diet & exercise for weight loss of 7% body weight can help in patients who are overweight or obese.
- Avoiding heavy alcohol intake and reducing intake of fructose, such as in sodas.
- Treating elevated cholesterol with statin medication and managing Diabetes Type 2.
- Vitamin E has been shown to help reduce inflammation in the liver.
- Actos, a medication used in diabetics, has been shown to help treat liver injury, even in patients without diabetes.