Signs of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease |
June 25, 2024

Signs of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

When it comes to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), there is nothing but devastating statistics.

According to the American Liver Foundation:

  • This is the number one cause of chronic liver disease.
  • An estimated 100 million Americans, including children, have NAFLD.
  • This is the third most common reason for a liver transplant.

But what is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?

As the name suggests, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which the liver accumulates excess fat that is not associated with high and long-term alcohol consumption.

What causes NAFLD?

It is still unknown what causes NAFLD. However, experts agree that people with obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol are most often diagnosed with it.

Other factors that can increase the risk of NAFLD include:

  • Genetic or hereditary influences
  • Old age
  • Smoking
  • Release of toxins
  • Certain medications (such as steroids and cancer medications such as tamoxifen)
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Liver infections (i.e. hepatitis)

What are the symptoms of NAFLD?

There is currently no specific set of symptoms that are exclusive to NAFLD, making early detection extremely difficult.

So, unfortunately, NAFLD often goes unnoticed until it develops into a more severe form called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). At this stage, the liver is already swollen and in most cases already requires a transplant.

Here are some of the symptoms to look out for:

  • Fatigue
  • Bloated belly (swelling is most noticeable in the upper right abdomen, where your liver is located.)
  • Severe weight loss
  • Enlarged breasts in men
  • Jaundice
  • Confusion of mind

If you experience any of these symptoms and suspect you may have non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, see your doctor immediately.

How is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease diagnosed?

The most common way to diagnose NAFLD is with a blood test.

  • Using a liver function test, NAFLD can only be diagnosed after when all other liver diseases are first identified and ruled out.
  • Keep in mind however that blood tests are not 100% accurate in detecting NAFLD.

If you are overweight, doctors recommend regular liver function tests to determine and monitor your liver enzyme levels. … p>

If a blood test does not detect NAFLD, but there is still a strong suspicion of its presence, experts often recommend computed tomography (CT) or ultrasound. P>

  • Clearly shows the amount of fat in the liver using imaging technology.
  • In some cases, you can also use a specialized ultrasound called fibroscan.

However, if you need accurate results, a liver biopsy is still the most reliable way to diagnose NAFLD.

  • A small needle is inserted into the abdomen where your liver is located to take a sample of your liver for testing.
  • A biopsy provides more detailed information about the condition of your liver compared to a blood test and ultrasound.

How is NAFLD progressing?

There are different stages of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease:

Simple fatty liver or steatosis

This liver disease is generally harmless. This includes the accumulation of fat in liver cells. This condition is usually diagnosed incidentally when testing for another condition.

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH

Compared to simple fatty liver, this is a more serious type of NAFLD in which the liver becomes inflamed.

From fatty liver, continuous fat accumulation can cause liver inflammation, causing non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH.

This liver disease affects 3 to 12 percent of adults in the United States, and about 75% suffer from hepatomegaly or liver edema.

NASH signs and symptoms are unclear because they may resemble other medical problems. That is why laboratory and image studies are necessary to diagnose the patient’s real condition. P>

Here are the signs and symptoms of NASH:

  • muscle weakness
  • lack of energy
  • easy fatigue
  • swelling of the upper abdomen
  • decreased appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort

Fibrosis

Liver scarring occurs at this point due to constant inflammation. While scar tissue develops around the liver and adjacent blood vessels, the liver can still function normally.

With immediate diagnosis and prompt treatment, it is very likely that your liver will heal itself.

Liver cirrhosis

It is considered the most severe stage of NAFLD, in which it occurs after years of inflammation and no treatment.

Liver tissue shrinks, becomes scarred and lumpy, resulting in irreversible liver damage, which can lead to liver failure.

Under normal liver conditions, this organ removes waste products such as drugs and toxins from the body.

But when cirrhosis of the liver begins, the scar tissue blocks blood flow and the liver stops functioning as it should.

Here are the signs and symptoms of liver cirrhosis and liver failure:

  • general weakness
  • easily tired
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • tarry stools
  • Jaundice or yellowish color of the sclera or white of the eye
  • Bloating
  • Ascites
  • Stomach pain
  • Bleeding and bruising
  • Spider veins in the skin
  • Confusion (due to accumulation of blood toxins), memory loss, poor concentration and hallucinations
  • Kidney problems
  • Weight Loss

Lifestyle changes are important if you have been diagnosed with NAFLD to avoid developing liver fibrosis and cirrhosis.

How can you prevent NAFLD?

Although it sounds cliché, NAFLD can be prevented with regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet.

In fact, recent research has shown that an increase in the beneficial gut bacteria found in vegetables may benefit people with NAFLD.

Eating more cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) in the diet may help fight NAFLD, according to research.

Conclusion

During the first stage of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the patient will not experience any symptoms or any signs of liver problems.

However, as fat accumulates, the liver becomes inflamed (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH) and scarring occurs, which causes fibrosis, manifested by fatigue, loss of energy, weight loss, and decreased appetite. P>

Over time, if appropriate medical treatment is not followed, the liver stops functioning properly and the patient develops signs and symptoms of liver cirrhosis and liver failure.

At this point, jaundice is a clear or yellowish tinge of the skin and sclera of the eye, bruising or bleeding.

In addition, the patient becomes confused and anxious due to the accumulation of toxins in the blood, affecting focus and cognitive function.

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