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World Liver Day: Majority of patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease could be asymptomatic

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Mohali, April 19, 2022: Liver disease affects millions of people across the world every year. Even as liver is the second-largest organ in the body, awareness about liver diseases continues to be significantly low. Fortis Hospital Mohali reports 4-5 patients with Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) daily.

To spread awareness about liver-related conditions, World Liver Day is observed on 19th April every year. Dr Mohinish Chhabra, Director, Gastroenterology, Fortis Hospital Mohali, in an advisory explains the common symptoms, causes, management and prevention of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).

What is NAFLD?
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease refers to a group of conditions where there is accumulation of excess fat in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol. Inflammation of the liver can get worse over time, thereby causing extensive liver scarring known as cirrhosis. This can cause further liver failure and liver cancer.

Symptoms

The majority of individuals with NAFLD have no symptoms and a normal examination. Children may exhibit symptoms such as abdominal pain, which may be in the centre or the right upper part of the abdomen, and sometimes fatigue. However, other causes of abdominal pain and fatigue should be considered. On physical examination the liver might be slightly enlarged and some children may have patchy, dark discoloration of the skin present (acanthosis nigricans) most commonly over the neck and the under arm area.

Causes

  1. Being overweight or obese.
  2. Type 2 diabetes or insulin says non-alcoholic fatty liver disease resistance.
  3. High level of fat in the blood.
  4. Poor diet and sedentary lifestyle.

Treatment options
Dr Chhabra says weight loss through a combination of a healthy diet, lifestyle and exercise can go a long way in treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Other diagnosis includes liver function test, chronic viral hepatitis screening, ultrasound, liver biopsy, CT scanning or MRI of the abdomen.

Prevention is better than cure
Dr Chhabra says some measures that can prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease include:

  1. Avoid alcohol: The liver breaks down alcohol, so it can be removed from the body. But a poor liver does not function properly, hence alcohol can harm the body.
  2. Lose weight: Keeping weight under check can help prevent inflammation in the liver. Ensure to consume a balanced diet and keep a tab on the calorie count.
  3. Limit sugar and salt intake: Sugar beverages such as juice, soft drinks, sports drinks etc. increase the chance of developing obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Likewise, overconsumption of excessive salt can also harm the liver.
  4. Diabetes: Ensure to control your diabetes under check and monitor your blood sugar level.
  5. Physical activity: Exercise boosts the immune system but also keeps the cholesterol level down.
  6. Vaccination: To prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B as these infections are more likely to cause liver failure.

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