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NAFLD is considered part of a metabolic syndrome characterized by overweight, excess body fat around the waist, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride. Having any of these characteristic puts you at risk of having NAFLD.
NAFLD can also be caused by certain medications, gastric bypass surgery, malnutrition, rapid weight loss, some chemicals and metabolic diseases.
The most common form of NAFLD is a benign condition called simple steatosis. In simple steatosis, fat accumulates in liver cells, but probably does not damage the liver. However, patients with simple steatosis have an increased risk of diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.
One out of three people with NAFLD have a more serious condition called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Fat accumulation in NASH is linked with inflammation and scarring, also known as fibrosis. The accumulation of scar tissues in the liver can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.
NAFLD is the most common chronic liver disease in adults in the United States, Australia, Asia and Europe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates about one out of every three adults and one out of every 20 children in the United States have NAFLD.
NAFLD tends to develop in people who are overweight, have diabetes or high triglyceride. Some patients with NAFLD experience fatigue or discomfort in the abdomen, but most have no symptoms until the disease has progressed to the very end stage.
Your doctor will take a detailed medical history, perform a full physical examination and routine blood tests to rule out other liver diseases. The diagnosis comes from the demonstration of fatty liver through ultrasound, CAT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The Liver Center at BIDMC offers a non-invasive diagnostic testing for NAFLD that can quickly determine whether you have NAFLD and/or whether you are at risk for progression to cirrhosis. This test is available in many locations in and around Boston.