​Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which an excessive amount of fat accumulates within the liver of someone who does not consume a significant amount of alcohol.

NAFLD affects approximately 30 percent of the U.S. population. It has been associated with various conditions, some of which include:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Sleep apnea
  • Polycystic ovarian disease

Symptoms of NAFLD

Most people with NAFLD experience no symptoms in its early stages. It is usually discovered because of an abnormal liver function test or during testing for an unrelated medical condition.

However, when symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Weight loss, loss of appetite, and nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Itching
  • Fluid retention or swelling of the legs and abdomen
  • Mental confusion

Prevalence of NAFLD

Some studies have shown the prevalence of NAFLD:

  • Increases with age, becoming more common in people over 50.
  • Is more common in men.
  • Affects people with high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol.
  • Occurs more often among people of Hispanic ethnicity.
  • Is higher among individuals who drink soft drinks with high-fructose corn syrup.

If left untreated, NAFLD may lead to swelling and scarring (cirrhosis) in the liver. Over time, it may even lead to liver cancer or liver failure.

Treatment for NAFLD

There are no medical treatments yet for NAFLD. Instead, treatment focuses on addressing the risk factors, like making lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle changes that can help slow the progression of NAFLD include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Limiting alcohol intake.
  • Taking only medicines that you need, and following dosing recommendations.

To learn more about NAFLD, or to schedule an appointment at the UPMC Center for Liver Diseases, call 412-647-1170.

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