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Non alcoholic fatty liver disease

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We usually associate liver disease with consumption of too much alcohol but unfortunately complications in liver can arise even if you do not consume or drink very less alcohol. One such disease is non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).


Stages and symptoms of non alcoholic fatty liver disease

Stage 1- Hepatic steatosis

Excess fats build up on liver, though you do not experience any symptoms

Stage 2: Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)

It is characterized by damage and death of some liver cells. The liver is inflamed seriously. Individuals experience sharp pain on the top of their right of their abdomen

Stage 3: Fibrosis

The healthy tissues of the liver are replaced by scarred fibrous tissues due to the aggressive form of inflammation. Pain in upper abdomen might occur.

Stage 4: Cirrhosis

This is the last stage of inflammation wherein scarred tissues cover up the liver, which subsequently shrinks and falls. It ultimately leads to liver failure. Weight loss, fatigue and pain in the liver are usually experienced.


What causes non alcoholic fatty liver disease?

It arises from excessive deposition of fats inside your liver due to inability of the liver to break down fats. Although the exact cause is not known, it is more likely to occur in people with the following health conditions: 

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypopituitarism
  • Inherited liver disease
  • Viral hepatitis
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (women)  


When to see a doctor?

Usually, stage 1 gets detected in a routine test. However, always seek medical help on encountering unusual pain, weight loss or abnormal fatigue.


Complications of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

If your disease has progressed to stage 2 i.e. NASH, then complications of gastrointestinal bleeding, liver failure and liver cancer exist in the future. 


Diagnosis of non alcoholic fatty liver disease

Your doctor will carefully evaluate the symptoms of pain and then check your medical condition. If he suspects likelihood of liver disease, then you have to undergo imaging tests for the liver which obviously include X ray, ultra-sonography, CT scan and MRI.

Blood tests for assessing the function of the liver enzymes are mandatory. However, imaging tests and blood tests cannot identify the stage you are suffering from.

In that case, a liver biopsy would be done wherein sample of liver cells would be collected for analyzing in the laboratory. This test is important to determine the extent of damage and the stage of the disease.


Treatment of non alcoholic fatty liver disease

The treatment primarily involves treating the underlying risk factor. Your doctor will recommend certain specific changes in your lifestyle and diet and prescribe supplements (omega 3, vitamins and antioxidants) to suffice for your nutritional deficiencies and to improve the function of your liver.

If your liver has been damaged then the last options are surgery and liver transplantation.


How to prevent non alcoholic fatty liver disease

Although there are no sure shot ways to prevent non alcoholic fatty liver disease, nonetheless you can cut down the risks.

You need to do the following things

  • Exercise daily. Eat foods low in saturated fats and cholesterol. Include more organic foods enriched with anti-oxidants.
  • Avoid stress or taking medicines/drugs/alcohol/smoking to beat with stress
  • Control your cholesterol levels and lose the extra pounds
  • Consult your doctor and get vaccinated against viral hepatitis

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: June 22, 2014