_ Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the build up of extra fat in liver cells that is not caused by alcohol use. It is normal for the liver to contain some fat. However, if more than 5% to 10% of the liver’s total weight is fat, then it is called a fatty liver (steatosis).
NAFLD tends to develop in people who are overweight or obese, or have diabetes, high cholesterol or high triglycerides. Rapid weight loss and poor eating habits also may lead to NAFLD. A common condition in patients with NAFLD is insulin resistance (the body does not respond normally to insulin).
Some people develop NAFLD even if they do not have any risk factors. NAFLD affects up to 25% of people in the United States.
Symptoms of NAFLD NAFLD often has no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may include fatigue, weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, spider-like blood vessels, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), itching, fluid buildup and swelling of the legs (edema) and abdomen (ascites), and mental confusion.
Treatment of NAFLD There are currently no medical treatments for NAFLD. Doctors may prescribe medications that help treat conditions affecting NAFLD (insulin resistance, diabetes, high cholesterol or high triglycerides). Some doctors may recommend vitamin E for patients with NAFLD. Also, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly may help prevent liver damage from starting, or reverse it in the early stages.
Other lifestyle choices that can keep your liver healthy include:
See a doctor who specializes in the liver (hepatologist or gastroenterologist) regularly
Talk to your doctor about ways to improve your liver health
Talk to your doctor about all the medications you take, including over the counter medicines, prescriptions, vitamins, and supplements
Lose weight if you are overweight or obese
Lower your cholesterol and triglycerides
Control your diabetes
Living with NAFLD It is possible for people with NAFLD to live healthy, active lives. You can take steps to keep yourself healthy. Talk to your doctor about treatment options and diet recommendations.
Is NAFLD contagious? No, NAFLD is not contagious and cannot be spread from one person to another.
Can people with NAFLD continue to work and do everyday activities? Yes, people with NAFLD can continue to work and do everyday activities.
What are the possible complications of NAFLD? NAFLD can cause the liver to swell (steatohepatitis). A swollen liver may cause scarring (cirrhosis) over time and may even lead to liver cancer or liver failure.