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Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) Questions and Answers

Wednesday, 02 Apr 2014 05:00 PM


           What is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)?
Non-Alcoholic fatty liver disease is currently the most common liver disease in most of the Western world, identified by a buildup of extra fat in liver cells (steatosis) that is not caused by alcohol. Although it is normal for the liver to contain some fat, the term “fatty liver” is used when a person’s liver is made up of more than 5%-10% fat. NAFLD is strongly associated with obesity and insulin resistance (pre-diabetes or diabetes) and is how “metabolic syndrome” affects the liver. In some patients with NAFLD, inflammation of the liver occurs, resulting in the accumulation of scar tissue (fibrosis). When this happens, the disease is referred to as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NAFLD is on the rise, affecting 30% of adults in Western countries. For some patients, NAFLD can progress to NASH and ultimately to cirrhosis (end-stage scarring) and liver failure.
 
            How common is NAFLD in the United States?
NAFLD is estimated to affect more than 30 million people in the United States. According to data presented at the International Liver Conference in 2011, NAFLD is expected to reach epidemic levels in the United States, affecting some 50% of Americans by 2030.
 
            Who is most at risk?
NAFLD most often develops in people who are overweight or obese, have type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides or polycystic ovary disease. NAFLD can be found in more than 25% of obese individuals; Hispanics have the highest rates followed by non-Hispanic whites. Additional risk factors include increasing age, hypertension, and rapid weight loss.
 
            Does NAFLD affect children?
NAFLD is present in approximately 10% of children in the United States. Though the numbers are decreasing, about one-third of children are still overweight or obese. Depending on the severity of NAFLD, treatment for children focuses on lifestyle and dietary changes that encourage weight loss and overall health.
 
           What are the symptoms of NAFLD?
NAFLD is a silent liver disease, often asymptomatic in its early stages. Symptoms typically include fatigue; nausea; abdominal discomfort; yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice); swelling of the legs (edema) and fluid buildup in the abdomen (ascites); and mental confusion (hepatic encephalopathy). In many cases, the first signs of illness do not occur until significant liver damage has developed.
           
How is NAFLD diagnosed?
NAFLD is often diagnosed during evaluation for abnormal liver tests found during routine blood work. NAFLD may be identified via imaging (ultrasound) or on a liver biopsy. When diagnosing NAFLD, it is necessary to inquire about excess alcohol consumption in order to rule out alternative causes.  
 
           How is NAFLD treated?
Drugs are in development, but currentlythere are no medications for fatty liver disease. Since obesity is a major risk factor, doctors recommend diet and exercise with the goal of at least a seven percent reduction in body weight. Most nutritional intervention guidelines for NAFLD recommend a moderately low-calorie diet of about 1000-1200 calories per day for women and 1200-1600 calories per day for men. Exercise recommendations call for approximately five 30-minute sessions of moderate activity each week, depending on a person’s age and medical status. 
 
           Will a person who has NAFLD ultimately need a liver transplant?
If treated early with healthy lifestyle changes, fatty liver disease can be reversed before severe liver damage occurs. But when left untreated, NAFLD can lead to liver failure and the need for a liver transplant.
 
           Where I get more information?
The American Liver Foundation provides information about NAFLD and many other liver conditions via its national helpline 1-800-GO-LIVER (1-800-465-4837) and website liverfoundation.org.
 
 
 
 

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What is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD? Non-Alcoholic fatty liver disease is currently the most common liver disease in most of the Western world, identified by a buildup of extra fat in liver cells (steatosis) that is not caused by alcohol. Although it is normal...
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2014-00-02
Wednesday, 02 Apr 2014 05:00 PM
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