Fatty liver disease, also known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD is the most common cause of chronic liver disease affecting about 100 million Americans. The more severe form is nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH. 1 in 5 people with NASH go on to develop cirrhosis and/or liver cancer, therefore early detection is critical.
At Elam Health and Wellness Dr. Stepanie Opusunju offers accurate diagnosis of and treatment of these conditions a mainstay of which is weight management, as obesity is the most prevalent underlying cause. To learn more, contact the office or request an appointment online.
What is fatty liver disease?
Fatty liver, also known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is a condition in which a person's liver becomes infiltrated with fat. Another condition that is used interchangeably with NAFLD is Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). The two are not the same. NASH occurs when the fat infiltrating the liver causes inflammation and scarring. If advanced enough, NASH can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer, possibly necessitating liver transplantation, and in worst cases, death.
Who gets fatty liver?
Studies have found that around 25-30% of people in the world have NAFLD and 2-5% have NASH. NAFLD and NASH can affect people of any age, race, or sex although it is more common in the following groups of people
- Hispanic and Asian descent
- People with obesity especially those with high amounts of belly fat
- Type 2 diabetics
- People with PCOS
- People with high blood pressure, or high cholesterol
What are the symptoms and how is it diagnosed?
The symptoms of NASH are not easily recognizable which leads to its underdiagnosis. Symptoms may include fatigue, nausea, yellowing of the eyes (jaundice), discomfort in the upper right side of the abdomen and swelling. In the office we can perform non-invasive diagnostic tests such as blood tests that calculate liver enzymes and special scores, such as the Fibrosis-4 Test (FIB-4) to identify or rule out advanced liver scarring. We can also refer patients for imaging studies and biopsies for more definitive diagnosis.
How is fatty liver treated?
Currently, there are no medications approved to treat NASH but several medications are in clinical trials pending approval. For now, we can prescribe medications for conditions associated with a fatty liver. Through weight loss, it is possible to curb the progression of NASH while it is still in its early stages with a combination of lifestyle changes, physical activity and nutrition. Prescription weight loss medications and weight loss surgeries are also options for those who qualify.
If you would like to learn more about losing weight for good, please feel free to call us or schedule an appointment with Dr. Stephanie Opusunju using the online booking tool on this website.