Fatty liver disease is a condition caused by deposition of excess fat within the liver. Even without any alcohol intake liver can become fatty causing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in those who have diabetes, obesity or elevated lipids. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is liver fat with inflammation and injury caused by a build up of excess fat. Lifestyle modification and management of co-morbidities associated with NAFLD such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia and cardiovascular disease can help treat the condition. Early diagnosis of the fatty liver disease is thus crucial for prevention, management and arrest progression of the disease. Dr Samir Shah, head of department of hepatology, Institute of Liver Diseases, HPB Surgery and Liver Transplant, Global Hospital, Mumbai elaborates.
NASH patients have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and liver-related death. NASH can progress to fibrosis and later to cirrhosis which is scarring and hardening of liver tissue. Cirrhosis can lead to liver failure and liver cancer with a need for a liver transplant. NAFLD cases are increasing at the same rate as obesity and type 2 diabetes which are the key risk factors for NAFLD. About 70-90% of obese and 40 – 50% of type 2 diabetes patients have NAFLD.
All you need to know about the liver function
The liver is the largest internal organ in our body and is located under your rib cage on the right side. It produces bile, which plays an important role in the breakdown and absorption of fat, cholesterol and some vitamins. The liver breaks down carbohydrates, proteins and fats into energy. It also stores iron, vitamin A, D, E, K and B12. The liver removes harmful substances from your blood and helps in fighting infection. In addition, it produces important blood clotting factors.
NAFLD can lead to serious liver condition if not treated at an early stage. It is important to understand that NAFLD has no symptoms. Also by the time the symptoms manifest, patients might have already progressed to an advanced stage of liver disease.