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Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a disorder in which large amounts of fat build up in the liver. It's like alcoholic liver disease, but NAFLD occurs in people who don't drink a lot of alcohol.
For some people, liver fat causes swelling and scarring — a condition called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
When the liver is swollen, it doesn't work properly.
Left untreated, NASH could lead to cirrhosis of the liver.
Cirrhosis — a serious disease that replaces healthy tissue in the liver with hard scar tissue — can cause:
People who are at high risk for NASH often suffer from one or more of the following:
But, NASH can occur in people who do not have any of these risk factors.
Some people with NAFLD may have no symptoms at all, even in late stages of the disease.
Others may have nonspecific symptoms and should be aware of warning signs such as:
People with NAFLD who progress to cirrhosis can have symptoms such as:
At the UPMC FLOW Clinic, our liver specialists use state-of-the-art tools to diagnose fatty liver disease.
Imaging scans of the belly, such as ultrasound, CT, or MRI:
Noninvasive means, such as blood tests:
Tests that assess liver stiffness, such as Fibroscan or MR elastography:
A liver biopsy, in some cases:
Treatments for NAFLD and NASH include:
For people who can't lose weight through diet and exercise alone, doctors might suggest bariatric surgical procedures, such as gastric bypass. This option is only for carefully selected patients.
If there is too much damage from NASH — leading to liver failure — you will need a liver transplant.
Fortunately, the UPMC Liver Transplant Program is one of the oldest and largest transplant programs in the United States.
As part of the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, we have decades of experience providing life-saving transplants to people with liver disease.