Cirrhosis Of The Liver

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Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, is any manifestation of fatty liver disease resulting from something other than alcohol abuse. Fatty liver disease, also known as fatty liver or fatty liver disorder, is a relatively mild disorder of the liver characterized by the accumulation of large fat deposits.

The process by which this occurs is called "steatosis," a term indicating that the body retains abnormal quantities of lipids within the cells, in the case of fatty liver disease especially in the liver. It's a chronic condition, is reversible, and in most cases it is not thought to be a serious threat to health, although in many cases its underlying causes are.

Causes of fatty liver other than alcohol abuse (which is to say, causes of NAFLD) include diabetes, obesity, and hereditary or other factors affecting the metabolizing of fats.


In most cases, fatty liver disease has no symptoms regardless of the cause. It occasionally happens that some patients suffer from chronic pain in the upper torso, near the liver, in conjunction with fatty liver disease. Other possible symptoms -- all of them rarely encountered -- are fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, and nausea.

On the rare occasions when symptoms do occur, it's a sign that something more serious may be involved than ordinary fatty liver disease; in that case, the underlying cause should be identified with care, as that rather than NAFLD itself may be causing the symptoms.

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That's especially true in the case of NAFLD, as alcohol abuse has been ruled out as the cause and what is causing the disease therefore becomes a question of some importance.

Ordinarily, fatty liver disease is diagnosed from tests taken for the purpose of diagnosing some other problem. Blood tests can indicate elevated liver enzymes. Medical scanning technology such as ultrasound, MRI, and other methods can show fatty deposits in the liver visually.

When fatty liver disease is found, the next step in diagnosing NAFLD is to rule out alcohol abuse as a cause, which initially means that the patient is asked about consumption of alcohol. If the patient drinks more than two drinks per day, a diagnosis of alcoholic fatty liver is normal.

Lower alcohol consumption, or none, indicates NAFLD. Fatty liver disease is fatty liver disease for the most part regardless of the cause, but NAFLD requires different treatment options than alcoholic fatty liver disease for the simple reason that cutting out alcohol consumption will not suffice to arrest and reverse the disease when the patient isn't drinking to excess in the first place.


In almost all cases, fatty liver disease is not treated directly. Instead, the underlying cause is addressed. In the case of NAFLD, that means the underlying cause must be identified. It may be obesity, in which case the prescription is gradual weight loss. If it is diabetes, treatments appropriate to that disease (which is itself a good deal more serious than fatty liver) should also arrest the progress of fatty liver disease. If the problem is a hereditary factor, treatment becomes more difficult but some medications may assist with the metabolism of fats and reduce lipid retention.

On rare occasions, NAFLD (and also alcoholic fatty liver disease) can lead to certain complications, including hepatocellular carcinoma, a form of cancer of the liver. It's believed that NAFLD can increase the likelihood of the occurrence of this cancer, but no hard figures are available as to the chance of that happening. Some ten percent of patience with alcoholic fatty liver develop hepatocellular carcinoma.

It stands to reason that the same should probably be true of NAFLD patients, but that has not been demonstrated and is not certain, as alcohol has a number of unpleasant effects on the liver and the cancer could result specifically from that rather than from the resulting fatty liver disease.

Some physicians believe that fatty liver disease increases the risk of heart disease; however, many of the causes of NAFLD, including obesity and diabetes, certainly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, so it's hard to separate this direct effect and the indirect effect of the fatty liver disorder.

The same is true of alcoholic fatty liver disease, since alcohol abuse increases risk of cardiovascular illness as well. In any case, the cures for fatty liver disease also addresses the underlying condition, which should improve the risk of heart disease.

NAFLD is a symptom of other liver diseases that may be much more serious in their early stages, such as cirrhosis of the liver, which can lead to complete liver failure, the necessity of a transplant, and even coma and death.

Fatty liver disease is therefore always a reason for some medical concern even though in itself it is seldom especially dangerous.


Fatty Liver Disease Explained in 69 Seconds