Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) involves the build-up of fat in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol. It is a common condition. NAFLD may not cause any problems if it is mild. In some cases, it can cause inflammation and scarring in the liver. If this is severe, it can cause liver failure.
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This disease often causes no symptoms. If fatty build-up is causing the liver not to function well, you may have symptoms. Symptoms may include:
- Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen
- Muscle weakness
- Yellowing of the skin and the white part of the eyes—jaundice
- Itchy skin
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
NAFLD should be treated as soon as possible. Untreated NAFLD can progress to cirrhosis and increase your risk of other conditions such as chronic kidney disease.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include:
- Blood tests—to look for raised liver enzymes
- Ultrasound—a test that uses sound waves to examine the liver
- CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the abdomen
- Liver biopsy —a small piece of your liver is removed and examined
Treatment focuses on the factors that are causing fatty liver disease. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may focus on avoiding certain medications, chemicals, or lifestyle factors that can damage your liver.
If you were born between 1945 and 1965, you should get screened for hepatitis C infection. If left untreated, it can lead to liver failure.
Weight loss of 10% of a person's body weight has been shown help reduce fat in the liver and improve function. If you are overweight, your doctor may recommend weight loss through:
- Healthy eating
- Behavioral therapy
- Bariatric surgery in serious cases
Your doctor may recommend medications to control the condition causing NAFLD.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (NAFLD, Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis [NASH])
American Liver Foundation https://www.liverfoundation.org
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases https://www.niddk.nih.gov
Canadian Liver Foundation https://www.liver.ca
Health Canada https://www.canada.ca
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Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/nafld-nash. Accessed May 14, 2013.
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