Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
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What is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)?
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a buildup of fat in the liver. NAFLD can be harmless, but sometimes it may cause the liver to swell. It is a common condition.
What are the symptoms of NALFD?
Many people do not have any symptoms. If you have NAFLD, you may feel fullness or pain in the middle or upper right side of the abdomen. You may feel extremely tired (fatigued).
CAUSES & RISK FACTORS
What are the risk factors for NAFLD?
A wide range of things can increase your risk of NAFLD, including certain medicines and genetic disorders. The most common risk factors for NAFLD are obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol levels. It is not caused by drinking alcohol.
DIAGNOSIS & TESTS
How can my healthcare provider tell if I have NAFLD?
To diagnose NAFLD, your healthcare provider may check your blood and order a scan of your liver. If your healthcare provider thinks you may have a more severe liver disease, you may need a liver biopsy. In this procedure, your healthcare provider inserts a needle through your skin and removes a small piece of tissue from your liver. This tissue is looked at under a microscope to check for signs of severe liver disease.
How is NAFLD treated?
People who have NAFLD usually do not need treatment. The most important thing is to focus on what has caused your NAFLD. Losing weight gradually (1 to 2 pounds (454 to 907 g) per week) may reduce the amount of fat in your liver. However, losing weight quickly may make NAFLD worse. Contact your healthcare provider for advice on how to lose weight in a safe and healthy way.
If your cholesterol and blood sugar levels are high, your healthcare provider may give you medicine to lower them. If a medicine you take is causing your NAFLD, your healthcare provider may consider switching you to a different medicine.
What can I expect?
For most people, NAFLD is harmless and does not cause serious health problems. NAFLD usually does not affect how well the liver works. However, in rare cases, NAFLD may stop the liver from working as it should. Although no one can tell for sure who will have liver problems from NAFLD, it is more likely to happen in people who have diabetes or who are very overweight.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
- What is the best treatment for me?
- What complications can I expect?
- What changes should I make to my diet?
- What exercises are good for me?
- Are there any medicines I should take?
- Will I have any liver damage?
- How quickly should I lose weight?
- What is causing my non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?
- Should I stop drinking alcohol?
- Are there any medicines I should avoid taking?
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Canadian Liver Foundation
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease by M Bayard, J Holt, E Boroughs (06/01/06, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20060601/1961.html)