What places senior citizens, diabetics and the obese at the highest risk of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)? Why does it occur even among those people who drink extremely low quantities of alcohol or don’t drink at all.
The liver is the second largest organ in the body and plays a major role in bodily functions. It processes everything you drink and eat. The liver converts food and liquid into energy and nutrients for the body, filtering harmful food items. One such item is alcohol, which after moderate level can cause liver failure.
Liver failure is a life-threatening condition where the only cure is a transplant. Liver failure can occur gradually and over many years. The damage is beyond repair and the liver is no longer in a condition to function.
Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD) and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
There can be various reasons which can be responsible for liver failure. They are categorized as Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD) and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). The ALD is dominated by high consumption of alcohol leading to liver cirrhosis and later liver failure. Alcohol Cirrhosis, Hepatic C, medication intoxications such as acetaminophen, heavy metal poisoning, environmental factors, and hereditary diseases such as Wilson disease, hemochromatosis are few other causes.
While Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is a liver condition affecting people who drink little or even those who don’t have no alcohol. The main characteristic of this condition is storage of fats in liver cells. In this article, we will extensively study the myths, chiefly alcohol being the only reason behind liver failure.
Enlarged liver, fatigue, pain in the liver. In severe cases of liver cirrhosis, symptoms such as enlarged liver, enlarged spleen, swollen blood vessels, etc.
NAFLD risks and complications
A hepatologist may not be able to come to a decision as to why exactly fat accumulates in the liver. The deposition of fats in the liver is the number one factor which leads to cirrhosis of the liver with complete liver failure. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver disease is linked to
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- High level of fats in the blood stream
- Insulin resistance, where sugar is found in blood stream
These factors together build up fat deposits in the liver. The excess of fats act as toxin to liver cells causing inflammation and later fibrosis in the liver.
Diseases such as Type-2 Diabetes, hypothyroidism, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, high cholesterol can increase the risk of NAFLD. Older people, diabetic people, obese people are at the highest risk of NAFLD.
The main problem related to NAFLD is cirrhosis leading to fibrosis in the liver. As a defense mechanism, liver cells fight against fibrosis leading to more liver damage.
The main complication of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis is cirrhosis, which is late-stage scarring (fibrosis) in the liver. Cirrhosis occurs in response to liver injury, such as the inflammation of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. As the liver tries to halt inflammation, it produces areas of scarring (fibrosis). With continued inflammation, fibrosis spreads to take up all the liver tissue. Cirrhosis can have following complications:
- Confusion and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy)
- Swelling of veins in esophagus which can rupture the surrounding blood vessels.
- Fluid in abdomen
- Liver cancer
- Liver failure