Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: risks, prevention, and more

Doctor Rohit Loomba visited the studio Monday to talk about Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and how to prevent it.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease tends to develop in people who are overweight or obese or have diabetes, high cholesterol or high triglycerides. Rapid weight loss and poor eating habits also may lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

However, some people develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease even if they do not have any risk factors. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease affects up to 25% of people in the United States.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease may cause the liver to swell (steatohepatitis). A swollen liver may cause scarring (cirrhosis) over time and may even lead to liver cancer or liver failure.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease often has no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may include fatigue, weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, spider-like blood vessels, yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), itching, fluid build up and swelling of the legs (edema) and abdomen (ascites), and mental confusion.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is initially suspected if blood tests show high levels of liver enzymes. However, other liver diseases are first ruled out through additional tests. Often, an ultrasound is used to confirm the diagnosis.

There are no medical treatments yet for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Here are some ways to prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease:

-Maintain a healthy weight
-Eat a healthy diet
-Exercise regularly
-Limit alcohol intake
-Only take medicines that you need and follow dosing recommendations.

Rohit Loomba, MD, is a board-certified gastroenterologist. His expertise includes treating and managing many types of chronic liver disease, such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and hemochromatosis. As a transplant hepatologist, Dr. Loomba works with transplant surgeons in the pre and postoperative care of liver transplant patients. He also directs the NAFLD Research Center at UC San Diego, and leads a multidisciplinary group of investigators to study NAFLD.

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