Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is a term used to describe the accumulation of fat in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol. It is common and, for most people, causes no signs and symptoms and no complications.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease usually causes no signs and symptoms. When it does, they may include:
- Pain in the upper right abdomen
- Weight loss
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have persistent signs and symptoms that cause you concern.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease occurs when your liver has trouble breaking down fats, causing fat to build up in your liver tissue.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. The wide range of diseases and conditions linked to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is so diverse that it’s difficult to pinpoint any one cause.
Types of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can take several forms — from harmless to life-threatening. Forms include:
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver.
- Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease-associated cirrhosis.
A wide range of diseases and conditions can increase your risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, including:
- Gastric bypass surgery
- High cholesterol
- High levels of triglycerides in the blood
- Metabolic syndrome
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Sleep apnea
- Type 2 diabetes
- Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
- Underactive pituitary gland (hypopituitarism)
Tests and diagnosis
Tests and procedures used to diagnose nonalcoholic fatty liver disease include:
- Blood tests. Liver function tests, including tests of liver enzymes, may help your doctor make a diagnosis.
- Imaging procedures. Imaging procedures used to diagnose fatty liver disease include ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Liver tissue testing.(liver biopsy).
Treatments and drugs
No standard treatment for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease exists.
Instead, doctors typically work to treat the risk factors that contribute to your liver disease. For instance, if you’re obese, your doctor can help you to lose weight through diet, exercise and, in some cases, medications and surgery.
Your doctor may recommend that you receive vaccinations against hepatitis A and hepatitis B to help protect you from viruses that may cause further liver damage.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Along with your doctor’s help, you can take steps to control your nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. You can:
- Lose weight.
- Choose a healthy diet.
- Exercise and be more active.
- Control your diabetes.
- Lower your cholesterol.
- Protect your liver.
No alternative medicine treatments are proven to cure nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. But researchers are studying whether some natural compounds could be helpful, such as:
- Vitamin E.
To reduce your risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease:
- Choose a healthy diet. Choose a healthy plant-based diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats.
- Maintain a healthy weight.