Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) involves the build-up of fat in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol. It is a common condition. NAFLD may not cause any problems if it is mild. In some cases, it can cause inflammation and scarring in the liver. If this is severe, it can cause liver failure.
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When the liver is unable to break down fats, they build up in liver tissue. Many conditions and diseases make it difficult for the liver to break down fats.
NAFLD is more common in men and with increasing age. Other factors that increase the chance of NAFLD include:
- High cholesterol
- Severe weight loss
- Some medications
- Exposure to certain chemicals
This disease often causes no symptoms. If fatty build-up is causing the liver not to function well, you may have symptoms. Symptoms may include:
- Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen
- Muscle weakness
- Yellowing of the skin and the white part of the eyes—jaundice
- Itchy skin
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
NAFLD should be treated as soon as possible. Untreated NAFLD can progress to cirrhosis and increase your risk of other conditions, such as chronic kidney disease.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include:
- Blood tests—to look for raised liver enzymes
- Ultrasound—a test that uses sound waves to examine the liver
- CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the abdomen
- Liver biopsy —a small piece of your liver is removed and examined
Treatment focuses on the factors that are causing fatty liver disease. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may focus on avoiding certain medications, chemicals, or lifestyle factors that can damage your liver.
To reduce your chance of NAFLD:
- Maintain a healthy weight by eating a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables , whole grains, and unsaturated fats.
- Get at least 30 minutes of daily exercise.
- Manage other medical conditions as directed by your doctor.