Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

(NAFLD, Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis [NASH])

Definition

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease involves the build-up of fat in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol. It is a common condition. NAFLD may not cause any problems if it is mild. In some cases, it can cause inflammation and scarring in the liver. If this is severe, it can cause liver failure.
The Liver
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Causes

When the liver is unable to break down fats, they build up in liver tissue. Many conditions and diseases make it difficult for the liver to break down fats.

Risk Factors

NAFLD is more common in men and with increasing age. Other factors that increase the chance of NAFLD include:

Symptoms

This disease often causes no symptoms. If fatty build-up is causing the liver not to function well, you may have symptoms. Symptoms may include:
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen
  • Muscle weakness
  • Jaundice
  • Itchy skin
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
NAFLD should be treated as soon as possible. Untreated NAFLD can progress to cirrhosis and increase your risk of other conditions, such as chronic kidney disease.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.Tests may include:
  • Blood tests—to look for raised liver enzymes
  • Ultrasound—a test that uses sound waves to examine the liver
  • CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the abdomen
  • Liver biopsy —a small piece of your liver is removed and examined

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