nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

What is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

For many people, the mention of liver disease conjures images of overindulgence of alcohol. Whether it’s Mardi Gras, the Super Bowl, happy hour, or a family holiday celebration, it doesn’t take long before someone makes a joke about their liver having to process their cocktails or spirits of preference. But the reality is that Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is one of the most common forms of liver disease.

What is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

A healthy liver has a relatively small amount of fat cells. However, when more than 10% of the liver’s weight is fat cells, it is considered to be a fatty liver. This extra fat causes inflammation and scarring. In the most severe cases, it can result in cirrhosis or liver failure.

There are two types of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: fat deposits with no liver damage is simply known as the acronym for the condition: NAFLD. If in addition to the extra fat, the liver is inflamed and/or already damaged, the condition is called Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH).

Who is Likely to Have Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

NALFD and NASH are most common in obese people in their 40s and 50s, although it can sometimes occur in children.

Symptoms of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

One of the most concerning aspects of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is that, despite the fact that it can be so damaging to one’s health, it’s rare to cause symptoms. In the instance that it does show signs, they are more likely to occur in people with NASH, and the patient will typically experience:

  • Abdominal pain (usually in the upper right side of the abdomen)
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Red palms of the hands
  • Visible spider like blood vessels
  • Yellow hue to the skin
  • Yellowing of the whites of the eyes
  • Enlarged breasts in men
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Diagnosis and Treatment

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease can be diagnosed with blood tests or imaging such as MRI or CT Scan. However, since so many people do not present any symptoms of the illness, it’s often discovered during testing or treatment for a different issue. If your medical provider sees signs of NAFLD, they will order a liver biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment options include a weight loss program that includes limiting saturated fats. If you’re obese, your doctor may recommend losing a set percentage of your body weight and possibly weight-loss surgery.

Your doctor may also recommend avoiding alcohol and over-the-counter medications. However, the best way to reverse fat deposits in the liver is to incorporate a more active lifestyle and healthy eating.

Risk Factors

Some factors that increase the likelihood of developing Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease include:

Prevention

Preventing Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease involves long-term lifestyle habits, such as maintaining a healthy weight. You can achieve this by incorporating regular exercise into your routine. Even something as simple as going for a walk for 45 minutes, several times a week will result in significant benefits for your liver and overall health.

You can also introduce plant-based whole foods into your favorite dishes. You can still eat comfort foods every now and then, but adding produce to your daily intake will reduce your risk of developing NAFLD.

If You Believe You May Have Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, Let Us Help You.

At Pinnacle Research, we specialize in the exploration of liver 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.