Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
This describes a range of conditions that cause fat deposition in the liver, but affect people who consume little or no alcohol. The mildest form is simple fatty liver (steatosis), in which fat accumulates in the liver but doesn’t cause liver damage. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a more serious condition because inflammation (hepatitis) is present and can ultimately lead to scarring and even cirrhosis (see above). Up to 20% of people with NASH will progress to cirrhosis.
Due to the rise in obesity, NAFLD is the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the U.S. and Western Europe. It may affect as many as one-third of all American adults. It affects all age groups but is most often diagnosed in middle-aged people who are overweight and may have diabetes as well as elevated cholesterol and triglycerides.
Early on NAFLD doesn’t cause symptoms and is often detected by abnormal liver function tests done as part of routine bloodwork during an annual physical. Treatment includes weight loss, exercise, improved diabetes control and lowering cholesterol with diet and medication. To date, there are no medications that specifically treat fatty liver.