Thursday, 18 Aug 2022

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: Unexplained weight loss is a symptom – how much though?

Liver disease: NHS Doctor talks about link with alcohol

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Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the term for a range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat in the liver. Early-stage NAFLD does not usually cause any harm, but it can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis, if it gets worse. Having high levels of fat in your liver is also associated with an increased risk of serious health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is when you have too much fat in your liver. But your liver is not damaged.

Healthcare providers don’t know the exact cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Certain health conditions are closely linked to NAFLD. These include obesity, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides.

These conditions may lead to extra fat in the liver or fatty liver disease.

Symptoms of NAFLD include:

  • Severe tiredness (fatigue)
  • Pain in the right upper belly (abdomen)
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • Spider-like blood vessels on the skin
  • Long-lasting itching.

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In a study with the National Library of Health, unexplained weight loss as a symptom of NAFLD was investigated.

The study analysed six patients who developed severe hepatic dysfunction following rapid weight loss or malnutrition.

Rapid weight loss was defined as an 18 to 91 kg loss.

Four patients either died or received an urgent liver transplant.

The study noted: “The mechanism of liver injury in aggressive steatohepatitis is unknown, but rapid fat mobilisation in obese patients may potentially cause oxidative stress to the liver and further study is needed to determine if there is a genetic predisposition to this form of injury and if antioxidants may protect the liver during rapid weight loss/malnutrition.”

The NHS stated that the waiting time for a liver transplant is 135 days from recently deceased donors.

People with the condition are highly advised to adopt a healthy lifestyle so that they have a stronger chance of survival.

This includes exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, losing weight, and not smoking

“NAFLD is not caused by alcohol, but drinking may make it worse. It’s therefore advisable to cut down or stop drinking alcohol,” said the NHS.

Ways to manage the disease include:

  • Staying at a healthy weight
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Not drinking alcohol.

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