How is Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) Diagnosed?
Being diagnosed with a serious health condition comes with a lot of worry and uncertainty. If you haven’t even been diagnosed yet — but suspect that something is wrong due to how you’ve been feeling lately — you may be becoming acquainted with medical terms that once upon a time weren’t even on your radar. Such is the case with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. What, exactly, does it mean to have such a disease? What are the symptoms? And, how is it diagnosed and treated?
What is non-alcoholic steatohepatitis?
To understand non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, it’s important to understand non-alcoholic fatty liver disease — which is what occurs when more than 10% of the liver’s weight is made up of fat cells. It’s a condition that is most likely to occur in people who are overweight or obese, have high cholesterol, high triglycerides, or large amounts of body fat in their abdominal area, or suffer from hypothyroidism. When the condition becomes severe and the liver is at its most inflamed, it develops into non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Left untreated, the inflammation will cause enough scarring on the liver to develop into cirrhosis — and ultimately, liver cancer and/or failure. To add insult to injury, patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis are also at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Symptoms of Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis
Generally, people with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis do not experience any symptoms. However, those who do may notice the following signs:
- Red palms of their hands
- Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes
- Pain or discomfort on the upper right side of the abdomen
- Enlarged blood vessels that are visible through the skin
How Is Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis Diagnosed?
Since patients typically don’t experience symptoms of NASH, healthcare providers usually first notice signs of the disease when imaging tests — such as an MRI or CAT scan — show visible fat deposits on the liver. Once such a discovery is made, physicians will order a liver biopsy to determine whether the patient has non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) or if it has developed into NASH.
Treatment For Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis
Currently, there are no medications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. However, the condition is reversible with certain lifestyle modifications, including:
- Losing weight: Losing just 10% of your body weight will help reduce inflammation of the liver. However, make sure to do so gradually and following a healthcare provider’s advice. Doing too much, too soon, could worsen the health of the liver.
- Avoid alcohol intake: Alcoholic drinks will cause additional fat accumulation on the liver — especially on people who already have NAFLD or NASH. If you feel like you must drink on a specific occasion, limit it to one drink.
- Manage underlying diseases: If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, keeping them under control will help reduce the amount of scarring on the liver. It can also reduce the presence of other symptoms related to the underlying diseases.
- Eat healthily: Eliminating certain foods from your diet will help reverse liver scarring. These include red meats, saturated fats, hydrogenated oils, processed grains, and added sugars.
If You Have NASH, Let Us Help You
At Pinnacle Research, we specialize in the exploration of disease. We work with over 70 referring physicians in San Antonio and Austin, providing clinical trials in liver disease.
Contact us to discuss how we can help you.