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Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

What is Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is a term used to describe a range of liver conditions that affect people who drink little or no alcohol.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease affects more women than men and is found in all age groups, including children. Usually, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is diagnosed in middle-aged people who are overweight or obese, and who may also have diabetes and elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is also called NAFLD.

What Causes Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

The exact cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is unknown. Researchers believe a cluster of disorders that increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke may be a factor.

Types of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

There are several types of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

The mildest type is simple fatty liver, also called steatosis. Simple fatty liver is an accumulation of fat within the liver that usually causes no liver damage.

A serious type, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, is associated with liver-damaging inflammation and, sometimes, the formation of fibrous tissue. In some cases, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis can progress to either cirrhosis, or liver cancer.

Symptoms of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Early-stage nonalcoholic fatty liver disease rarely causes any symptoms. If symptoms are present in the early stages, some common symptoms are fatigue, malaise, and a dull ache in the upper right abdomen.

Symptoms present in advanced stages of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease are:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Small, red spider veins under your skin or easy bruising
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice
  • Bleeding from engorged veins in your esophagus or intestines
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Fluid in your abdominal cavity
  • Itching on your hands and feet and eventually on your entire body
  • Swelling of your legs and feet

How is Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Diagnosed?

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is usually detected because of abnormal results of liver tests done for unrelated issues.

Can Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease be Treated?

Yes. The most common treatments include weight loss, exercise, improved diabetes control and the use of cholesterol-lowering medications.

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