What is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)?
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a major cause of liver disease and now accounts for over 60% of liver patients in Western countries. Excess body weight causes fat to be deposited in the liver, leading to chronic inflammation, fibrosis and eventually liver cirrhosis.
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) develops in four main stages:
Stage 1 - simple fatty liver (steatosis) – deposits of fat begin to build up within the cells of the liver. This is largely harmless and usually goes unnoticed because it does not tend to cause any symptoms. Most people will only ever develop the first stage.
Stage 2 - non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) – inflammation begins to form in and around the fatty liver cells.
Stage 3 - fibrosis – persistent inflammation causes scar tissue around the liver and nearby blood vessels, but the liver is still able to function normally.
Stage 4 – cirrhosis – the amount of scar tissue increases over time and can eventually become so extensive that it will prevent the liver from being able to function normally.
It can take years for fibrosis or cirrhosis to develop. If you are at risk it is important to get tested so that if a positive diagnosis is confirmed you can make lifestyle changes as early on as possible to prevent the disease from progressing.
Who is at risk of developing NAFLD?
The majority of people with NAFLD are overweight (this is defined as having a BMI of over 25). However, not everyone who is overweight or obese will develop a fatty liver and not everyone who has a fatty liver is overweight.
People who have the following conditions: type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or who smoke are at higher risk of NAFLD.
However, NAFLD has been diagnosed in people without any of these risk factors.
Upon viewing his LiverMultiScan report Colin said: "for me it is a very good health warning … to see it like that. If you know what you have got, you can see the whole problem in its entirety and you can sort of understand it better. Therefore, deal with it better I think."
Over the following 6 months Colin made positive lifestyle changes, like going to the gym, and managed to reduce his BMI to 48. He then had a second LiverMultiScan which showed that the level of fat in his liver had reduced and the amount of inflammation in his liver had also decreased.
NICE guidelines in the UK recommend that: "Losing weight and exercising more can help people with NAFLD. Many people find that these simple changes can help NAFLD improve or stop it getting worse."
If Colin continues with his positive lifestyle changes he will hopefully see continued improvement in the condition of his liver and will be able to prevent himself from developing NASH, fibrosis or cirrhosis.