What is Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a liver condition in both adults and children where excess fat accumulates around the liver. NAFLD is currently the most common liver disease in developed countries and is often associated with metabolic syndromes, which are characterized by:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity

The liver plays a key role in processing nutrients in our diets and removing harmful substances from the body. When excess fat collects in the liver, whether through increased dietary fat intake or from alterations in the body’s ability to handle fats, inflammation can develop and eventually lead to the development of scar tissue (fibrosis) within the liver. As the scar tissue continues to form, cirrhosis can eventually develop. Cirrhosis can progress to liver failure or lead to liver cancer.

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Symptoms

Most patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease do not experience symptoms at the early stages of the disease. Some patients may experience abdominal discomfort due to stretching of the liver capsule from enlargement during early stages of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

If symptoms do appear, it is usually once the disease has progressed to an end-stage of cirrhosis or if liver cancer has developed. These symptoms will include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen
  • Muscle weakness
  • Jaundice
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea