Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is, as the name suggests, a build-up of fat in the liver.
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Being overweight and obese are the main causes, which means the condition should be easy to prevent through healthy diet choices and regular exercise.
While the early stages of NAFLD doesn’t usually cause any harm, it can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis.
Having high levels of fat in your liver can also put you at increased risk of diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.
It’s estimated that up to one in every three people in the UK has early stages of NAFLD. So how do you know if you’ve got it or if you’re at risk of developing it?
The NHS states you’re at increased risk of NAFLD if you are obese or overweight – particularly if you have a lot of fat around your waist.
Other risk factors include: having type 2 diabetes, having high blood pressure, having high cholesterol, being over the age of 50, and smoking.
But the health body adds: “NAFLD has been diagnosed in people without any of these risk factors, including young children.
“Although it’s very similar to alcohol-related liver disease, NAFLD isn’t caused by drinking too much alcohol.”
NAFLD usually doesn’t have any symptoms in the early stages, but in the more advanced stages of the disease, four signs may begin to show.
These are a dull or aching pain n the top right of the tummy, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and weakness.
The most advanced stage of the disease is cirrhosis. If it develops into this you may experienced more severe symptoms.
Cirrhosis can lead to liver failure, which will eventually stop the liver working and can have fatal consequences.
The condition usually takes years to reach this stage, and while treatment can help slow its progression, there is currently no cure available.
Symptoms may not be apparent in the early stages of cirrhosis, but as your liver becomes more damaged, four things may emerge as a result of the condition.
You may begin to feel very tired and weak, feel nauseous, lose your appetite, and lose your sex drive.
As the condition gets worse, further symptoms can develop. These include yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (known as jaundice), vomiting blood, itchy skin, and dark, tarry-looking poo.
A tendency to bleed or bruise easily and swollen legs or tummy from a build-up of fluid can also be indicators.
Another main type of liver disease is alcoholic fatty liver disease. This is caused by drinking a large amount of alcohol, even for a few days, and the build-up of fats in the liver.
If you think you have any of the symptoms of liver disease you should see your GP.