Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
is an umbrella term for a variety of liver disorders that affect people who drink little or no alcohol. As the name suggests, the main feature of NAFLD is that too much fat is stored in the liver cells.
is becoming increasingly common around the world, particularly in western countries. In the United States, it is the most common form of chronic liver disease, affecting about a quarter of the population.
Some people with NAFLD may develop nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), an aggressive form of fatty liver disease characterized by inflammation of the liver that can lead to advanced scarring (cirrhosis) and liver failure. This damage is similar to the damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
NAFLD does not usually cause any signs or symptoms. If so, they may include:
Pain or discomfort in the upper right abdomen
Possible signs and symptoms of NASH and advanced scarring (cirrhosis) include:
Abdominal swelling (ascites)
Below the surface enlarged blood vessels in the skin
yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)
when to see a doctor
Make an appointment to see your doctor if you have persistent signs and symptoms that worry you .
Experts don’t know exactly why some people store fat in their liver and others don’t. Nor is it known why some fatty livers develop inflammation that leads to cirrhosis.
NAFLD and NASH are associated with:
being overweight or obese
insulin resistance, in which cells fail to absorb sugar in response to the hormone insulin
high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), indicating prediabetes or type 2 diabetes
High levels of fats, especially triglycerides, in the blood
These combined health problems appear to promote fat deposition in the liver. In some people, this excess fat acts like a toxin on liver cells, leading to liver inflammation and NASH, which can cause scar tissue to form in the liver.
A wide range of diseases and conditions can increase the risk of NAFLD, including:
High blood triglyceride levels
Obesity, particularly if fat is concentrated in the abdomen
Polycystic ovary syndrome
type 2 diabetes
underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
underactive pituitary gland (hypopituitarism)
NASH is more likely in these groups:
people with diabetes
people with concentrated body fat in the abdomen
Difficult to distinguish NAFLD from NASH without further testing.Prevention
To reduce your risk of NAFLD:
Eat a healthy diet. Eat a healthy, plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight or obese, reduce the number of calories you eat each day and get more exercise. If you’re at a healthy weight, work to maintain it by eating a healthy diet and exercising.Exercise. Exercise most days of the week. Get your doctor’s approval first if you don’t exercise regularly