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What is fatty liver disease?

Khris Ramdeen

     Before we talk about fatty liver disease it's important to understand the term. Hepatic steatosis which is the accumulation of fats or lipids into the liver. There's a couple different types of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. One is nafl or non-alcoholic fatty liver and this refers to hepatic steatosis without inflammation in the liver. 

     The next one is Nash or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and this refers to hepatic steatosis with liver inflammation. Risk factors for fatty liver disease include central obesity, type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia and metabolic syndrome. Fatty liver disease is actually the most common type of liver disease in industrialized Western countries. Now how do you get diagnosed with this? Usually it's by mistake patients don't really have symptoms at first. Maybe you had a routine blood test done or an imaging study that found it. 

     For example, let's say you had a routine blood testing done and your ast or your alt which are the aminotransferases or liver function tests were elevated. That can clue you into the disease secondly if you had something going on that required imaging like an ultrasound or an MRI or a CT scan that can also detect value liver disease in terms of treatment. We have to identify overweight and obese patients so we can help them lose about 5 to 7 percent of their body weight at a rate of about 1 to 2 pounds per week. 

     Now if we take this conservative approach with lifestyle changes for weight loss and then repeat the liver function tests. Usually in about 3 to 6 months and they don't normalize then we have to investigate other potential causes of liver disease. The other thing that we have to get them to do is to stop drinking alcohol in terms of prognosis in severe cases of fatty liver disease. This can progress to cirrhosis which is a scarring of the liver that usually occurs chronically or over time. Once cirrhosis sets in we can try to take measures to slow the progress of that cirrhosis but we cannot reverse it.