The liver is a vital organ responsible for detoxifying the body, producing bile, and regulating metabolism. Liver diseases, including viral hepatitis, fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer, can have severe consequences if left untreated. Amongst children, Fatty Liver disease, viral infections of the liver and liver cirrhosis are some of the more common liver diseases. Today, we have Dr Nidhi Rawal, Lead Consultant, Paediatric Gastroenterologist, Department of Paediatric, Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Madhukar Rainbow Children's Hospital, Malviya Nagar, New Delhi, to talk about the various signs and symptoms, along with the risk factors that are associated with fatty liver disease in kids.
What Is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?
Fatty liver disease in children, also known as pediatric nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is a condition where fat builds up in the liver, which can cause inflammation and scarring over time. Also, when left untreated and unmanaged, NAFLD can lead to serious liver problems like fibrosis and cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer. Here are some signs and symptoms that may show up in your body when your liver is at risk of unexplained fat build-ups:
An acute pain in the upper right part of the belly.
Extreme tiredness and fatigue.
Showing symptoms of jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).
Higher levels of liver enzymes in the blood.
Liver or spleen (a small organ that helps filter blood) that is larger than normal.
What Causes Fatty Liver Disease?
As said above, fatty liver disease is caused by too much fat (triglycerides) builds up inside the liver. The major contributing factors to this fat build-up are the diet and poorly regulated lifestyle habits. Other factors to this health condition include:
Out of all, obesity plays a major role. According to the data, fatty liver disease has become an epidemic due to the rise of obesity in children. "Since obesity is an epidemic on its own, fatty liver disease mirrors that," experts quoted as saying.
What can happen if you don't manage fatty liver conditions on time? Fatty liver is the gateway to some severe health consequences and metabolic syndrome, including type 2 diabetes and eventually heart disease and hypertension. Therefore, it is important that you keep a close tab on your liver health and keep it happy with easy lifestyle changes.
Fatty Liver Prevention Tips
The condition can turn fatal if not treated or prevented on time. It is also becoming increasingly common in children, particularly those who are overweight or obese. Here is some information on how to prevent and treat fatty liver disease in children:
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Encourage a healthy diet that is low in saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and processed foods
Encourage regular physical activity and limit sedentary activities
Promote healthy sleep habits
Ensure your child has regular check-ups with their paediatrician to monitor their weight and overall health
How To Treat Fatty Liver Diseases?
Treatment of fatty liver disease in children typically involves lifestyle changes to improve overall health and reduce inflammation in the liver. This includes:
Proper weight management (weight loss)
Exercising regularly, and
Following a healthy diet
"Medications may also be used to treat specific symptoms or complications of the disease, such as high cholesterol or insulin resistance. In severe cases, a liver transplant may be necessary," said Dr Nidhi Rawal.