Liver disease: NHS Doctor talks about link with alcohol
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Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the term for a range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat in the liver. It’s usually seen in people who are overweight or obese. The condition is largely symptomless in the early stages.
However, sinister symptoms may surface if NAFLD reaches the later stages.
According to the health body Scan Clinic, three specific types of pain in your abdominal area can be a warning sign of NAFLD.
- Slight pain
- Moderate pain
- Severe pain.
Other signs include:
- Elevated levels of liver enzymes
- Elevated insulin levels
- Elevated triglyceride levels
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting.
Unfortunately, you probably will not know you have it unless it’s diagnosed during tests carried out for another reason.
According to the NHS, NAFLD is often diagnosed after a blood test called a liver function test produces an abnormal result and other liver conditions, such as hepatitis, are ruled out.
But blood tests do not always pick up NAFLD.
“The condition may also be spotted during an ultrasound scan of your tummy,” explains the NHS.
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This is a type of scan where sound waves are used to create an image of the inside of your body.
Am I at risk?
Experts don’t know exactly why some people accumulate fat in the liver while others do not.
Similarly, there is limited understanding of why some fatty livers develop inflammation that progresses to more severe complications.
NAFLD has been linked to a number of chronic disease markers, however.
According to the Mayo Clinic, these include:
- Overweight or obesity
- Insulin resistance, in which your cells don’t take up sugar in response to the hormone insulin
- High blood sugar (hyperglycemia), indicating prediabetes or type 2 diabetes
- High levels of fats, particularly triglycerides, in the blood.
“These combined health problems appear to promote the deposit of fat in the liver,” explains the health body.
“For some people, this excess fat acts as a toxin to liver cells, causing liver inflammation and NASH, which may lead to a buildup of scar tissue in the liver.”
Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is an aggressive form of fatty liver disease, which is marked by liver inflammation and may progress to advanced scarring (cirrhosis) and liver failure.
Can NAFLD be treated?
There aren’t any specific treatments yet for NAFLD.
“Your doctor will encourage you to make changes to your lifestyle to prevent your condition getting worse,” explains Bupa.
According to the health body, your doctor will also recommend treatment for any medical conditions or complications you may have because of your NAFLD.
There’s lots of research going on to try to find a treatment, especially for people with the more advanced stages of liver fibrosis and inflammation.
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