All you need to know about non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a very common disorder and refers to a group of conditions where there is accumulation of excess fat in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol. The most common form of NAFLD is a non-serious condition called fatty liver

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Some people with NAFLD may have a more serious condition named non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). In NASH, fat accumulation is associated with liver cell inflammation and different degrees of scarring.

NASH is a potentially serious condition that may lead to severe liver scarring and cirrhosis. Cirrhosis occurs when the liver sustains substantial damage, and the liver cells are gradually replaced by scar tissue, which results in the inability of the liver to work properly. Some patients who develop cirrhosis may eventually require a liver transplant (surgery to remove the damaged liver and replace it with a “new” liver).

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease usually causes no signs and symptoms. When it does, they may include: Enlarged liver, fatigue, discomfort in the upper right abdomen.

Dr Prasanna S Shah
Dr Prasanna S Shah

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis are both linked to the following:

  • Overweight or obesity (Lean people may also suffer from NASH)
  • Insulin resistance, in which your cells don’t take up sugar in response to the hormone insulin
  • High blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
  • High levels of fats, particularly triglycerides, in the blood
  • These combined health problems appear to promote the deposition of fat in the liver. For some people, this excess fat acts as a toxin to liver cells, causing liver inflammation and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, which may lead to a buildup of scar tissue (fibrosis) in the liver.
  • Some patients with excessive fibrosis progress to cirrhosis.

The author is a Con Interventional Gastroenterologist at Jaslok Hospital And Research Centre