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Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (nafld) Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (nafld)
  • What is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?
  • What are the causes of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?
  • What are the symptoms of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?
  • How is the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease treated?
  • What are the complications and related diseases?
Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (nafld)

What is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a term used to describe a range of liver conditions affecting people who drink little to no alcohol. The main characteristic of NAFLD is the presence of excessive fat stored in the liver’s cells.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is increasingly prevalent in Asia. It is one of the most common chronic liver diseases in the region with cases estimated to outnumber that of the Western countries.

Individuals with NAFLD may develop non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), This is a more aggressive form of the fatty liver disease marked by liver inflammation and may lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and liver failure. The effects of NASH are similar to alcoholic hepatitis.

Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (nafld)

What are the causes of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?

While the specific reasons for how and why some patients are more susceptible to having a fatty liver are not yet ascertained, some known causes of NAFLD and NASH include:

  • High amounts of fat, particularly triglycerides, in the blood.
  • Insulin resistance, a condition where cells don’t absorb the sugar in response to the insulin hormone.
  • High levels of sugar in the blood (hyperglycaemia) or diabetes.
  • Obesity.

Collectively, these health issues appear to promote the deposition of fat in the liver. In some patients, the presence of excess fat can be toxic to liver cells, leading to inflammation and NASH, resulting in a build-up of scar tissue in the liver.

Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (nafld)

What are the symptoms of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?

p>Patients with NAFLD may not present with obvious symptoms until the disease is in its later stages. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the upper right abdomen
  • Fatigue

Those with NASH and liver cirrhosis could present with the following symptoms:

  • Enlarged spleen.
  • Abdominal swelling (ascites)
  • Redness on the palms
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Visibly enlarged blood vessels just beneath the skin's surface.
Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (nafld)

How is the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease treated?

Treatment for NAFLD includes:

  • Lifestyle changes by adopting a healthy diet and exercising.
  • Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Weight loss surgery can be an option for those who need to lose a large amount of weight.
  • Liver transplant.
Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (nafld)

What are the complications and related diseases?

Both NAFLD and NASH can cause liver cirrhosis, which is the scarring of the liver. Cirrhosis is the liver’s natural response to injury, such as inflammation caused by NASH. As the liver tries to prevent inflammation, areas of scarring may result, a condition known as fibrosis. If the inflammation continues, the fibrosis will spread to more and more areas of the liver, limiting its ability to function.

If cirrhosis is left untreated, it may cause:

  • Confusion, drowsiness, and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy)
  • Swelling of the veins in the oesophagus (oesophageal varices), which may rupture and bleed.
  • Abdominal swelling due to fluid build-up (ascites)
  • Liver cancer
  • Liver failure