Medical Specialties

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease


What is it? Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) occurs when fat builds up in the cells of the liver. Most patients are initially asymptomatic. Some may experience abdominal pain, fatigue and as the liver disease progresses, signs of end stage liver disease. NAFLD is commonly associated with metabolic syndromes, including insulin resistance, hypertension and dyslipidemia, as well as obesity-associated conditions, such as sleep apnea, orthopedic problems and psychosocial challenges. It is the most common chronic liver disease in children and prevalent in up to 17% of adolescents.

What causes it? There are a number of causes, but genetic predisposition is a significant factor. NAFLD is more common in Hispanic and Native American populations.&

How is it treated? Diagnosis is based on exclusion of other liver disease and supported by imaging and liver biopsy. Primary treatment options include lifestyle changes that focus on a healthy diet, exercise, and losing weight. In severe cases, a liver transplant may be warranted. Vitamin E, an antioxidant, has been shown to have some benefit as well.

What if it is not treated? If left untreated, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can lead to liver damage and scarring. In severe cases, it can lead to liver failure, and the patient will need a liver transplant.


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