Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a range of conditions that build up fat in the liver. It is common among people who are obese or overweight. The early stage of NAFLD doesn’t cause any harm, but later it can cause severe liver damage, which includes cirrhosis.
High-fat levels in the liver can increase severe health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney diseases. For patients with existing diabetes, NAFLD can increase the chances of developing multiple heart problems. If detected at an early stage, there are possibilities to stop the condition from worsening while reducing the liver fat.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease causes
You are at an increased risk of NAFLD if you:
- Are overweight or obese (specifically, if you have a lot of fat near your abdomen)
- Have type 2 diabetes
- Have any condition that can affect your body’s insulin
- Have an underactive thyroid
- Have high cholesterol
- Have high blood pressure
- Have metabolic syndrome
- Are over the age of 50
But, the condition can also affect people without these risk factors, including young children. Though NAFLD is similar to alcohol-related liver disease, it is not due to alcohol abuse.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease symptoms
There will be no or minimum symptoms of NAFLD in the early stages, so testing is the only way to diagnose the condition. At advanced stages, occasionally, people can experience:
- Aching pain in the top right part of the abdomen (the lower ride side of the ribs)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme tiredness
During advanced stages of cirrhosis, you might develop more severe symptoms like yellowing skin or the whites of the eyes, itchy skin, and swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, or abdomen.
Consult a doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease prevention
- Loose weight (maintain your BMI between 18.5 to 24.9)
- Stay on a healthy diet
- Avoid sweet drinks, and replace them with water
- Exercise regularly
- Quit smoking
Reviewed by – Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD Microbiology
Page last reviewed: 16 JULY 2022