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Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease - Know About Its Complications!

Written and reviewed by
Dr.Parveez Siddiqui 90% (70ratings)
MD - General Medicine
Internal Medicine Specialist, Hyderabad  •  4years experience
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease - Know About Its Complications!

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common form of liver disease as it affects about 80 to 100 million people in the US alone. It is described as a range of liver conditions which may affect people who either don’t drink alcohol or drink too little of it. The distinguishing feature of this disease is the presence of too much fat in the liver. It can occur in every age group. However, people in age groups of the 40s and 50s, who are susceptible to heart diseases because of diabetes and other lifestyle diseases, are the most vulnerable to this problem. Increased liver fat is not an isolated occurrence; it comes with reduced ability to use insulin, increased abdominal fat, high blood pressure, high triglyceride fat levels, etc.

Symptoms Of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease -

In the initial stages, there is no symptom. However, as the condition of the liver worsens it may give rise to an enlarged liver, pain in the right upper quadrant, fatigue, etc. One may also have other symptoms like swelling of the abdomen, dilation of blood vessels just below the skin, enlargement of breast tissues in men, enlargement of spleen, reddish appearance of palms, jaundice, etc.

Stages Of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver -

  • Steatosis: Also known as simple fatty liver, Steatosis is the initial stage of the disease. It is regarded as a benign deposit of fat in the liver which is usually diagnosed during diagnostic tests done for other reasons.

  • Steatohepatitis: It is a serious form where the liver gets inflamed.

  • Fibrosis: If the inflammation of liver persists, it may give rise to scarring of liver tissue and the nearby blood vessels. However, the liver may still be able to work normally.

  • Cirrhosis: This is the most severe stage which occurs if you live with fibrosis for a long time. It leads to shrinkage of the liver and the liver becoming lumpy and scarred. This permanent damage can cause liver failure and also liver cancer. If you can improve your lifestyle in the meantime, you can prevent cirrhosis.

Complications - 

The most common complication of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is fibrosis and cirrhosis. In fact, even fibrosis goes undetected most of the times. This is why liver damage is mostly diagnosed when someone is suffering from cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is also known as late-stage fibrosis of the liver. Cirrhosis is the response of the liver to various injuries like inflammation, fibrosis, etc. The liver always tries to counter the inflammation and in order to do that it gives rise to scarring. As the fight with inflammation continues, the fibrosis spreads and engulfs all of the liver.

If this process goes on unhindered, one can suffer from:

  • Build up of fluid in the abdomen

  • Drowsiness, slurred speech, confusion, etc.

  • Liver cancer

  • Liver failure

Take Away -

Complications of non-alcoholic liver disease progress from no symptoms to the severe symptoms that can make an individual suffer from critical conditions like liver cancer or liver failure.

In case you have a concern or query you can always consult a specialist & get answers to your questions!
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