How dangerous is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver?

The damage NAFLD does depends upon a person’s health and its stage. Early-stage NAFLD does not usually cause any harm, but it can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis if it gets worse. Having high levels of fat in your liver is also associated with an increased risk of serious health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease.

If you already have diabetes, NAFLD increases your chance of developing heart problems. If detected and managed at an early stage, it’s possible to stop NAFLD from getting worse and reduce the amount of fat in your liver.

Stages of Non-Alcoholic Fatty liver disease

NAFLD develops in four main stages. Most people will only develop the first stage, usually without realising it. In a small number of cases, it can progress and eventually lead to liver damage, if not detected and managed.

The main stages of NAFLD are:

1. Simple fatty liver (steatosis) – A largely harmless build-up of fat in the liver cells that may only be diagnosed during tests carried out for other reasons.

2. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) – It is a more serious form of NAFLD, where the liver has become inflamed. This is estimated to affect up to 5 per cent of the population in the UK.

3. Fibrosis – In this stage, persistent inflammation causes scar tissue around the liver and nearby blood vessels, but the liver is still able to function normally.

4. Cirrhosis – It is the most severe stage that occurs after years of inflammation, where the liver shrinks and becomes scarred and lumpy. This damage is permanent and can lead to liver failure (where your liver stops working properly) and liver cancer.

It can take years for fibrosis or cirrhosis to develop. It’s important to make lifestyle changes to prevent the condition from getting worse.

Many studies have looked at possible treatments for NAFLD with diet and exercise, usually to achieve weight loss. However, it is important for patients to avoid any drastic weight loss methods; starvation, protein deficiency, and rapid weight loss can cause or worsen NAFLD. Do consult your doctor to learn about the right treatment for you.

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Disclaimer
Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can further read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

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