Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a prevalent liver condition that primarily affects individuals who consume little to no alcohol. The condition is characterized by an excessive accumulation of fat in the liver and is most commonly observed in individuals who are overweight or obese. The global incidence of NAFLD is on the rise, particularly in Middle Eastern and Western nations, paralleling the increasing prevalence of obesity.
In some cases, NAFLD can progress to a more severe condition known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH represents an advanced stage of fatty liver disease, leading to inflammation and damage to the liver due to the accumulation of fat deposits. This progression may result in worsening conditions, potentially leading to significant liver scarring, known as cirrhosis, and even the development of liver cancer. The damage inflicted by NASH is comparable to the harm caused by prolonged heavy alcohol consumption.
Currently, there is a movement to rename nonalcoholic fatty liver disease to metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD). Additionally, experts are recommending a similar name change for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis to metabolic dysfunction-associated steatohepatitis (MASH). This shift in nomenclature reflects a broader recognition of the underlying metabolic factors contributing to these liver conditions, aiming to enhance understanding and treatment approaches for these increasingly prevalent health issues.
NAFLD often presents without noticeable symptoms. When symptoms do manifest, they might include:
Potential symptoms associated with NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis) and cirrhosis (advanced liver scarring) include:
The factors leading to the accumulation of fat in specific livers and the progression from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) remain unclear to experts. Both NAFLD and NASH are linked to:
While these health issues together may play a role in the development of a fatty liver, it’s important to note that some individuals can still develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) even without these specific risk factors.
Various diseases and health conditions can elevate the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). These include:
Additionally, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is more likely in certain groups:
Distinguishing between NAFLD and NASH necessitates a clinical evaluation and appropriate testing.
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