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The liver is an organ that processes the food we eat stores energy and provides the body with a healthy immune system. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a very common disorder and refers to a group of conditions where there is an accumulation of excess fat in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol. The most common form of NAFLD is a non-serious condition called fatty liver.
In fatty liver, fat accumulates in the liver cells. Although having fat in the liver is not normal, by itself it probably does not damage the liver. Some people with NAFLD may have a more serious condition named non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). In NASH, fat accumulation is associated with liver cell inflammation and different degrees of scarring.
NASH is a potentially serious condition that may lead to severe liver scarring and cirrhosis. Cirrhosis occurs when the liver sustains substantial damage, and the liver cells are gradually replaced by scar tissue, which results in the inability of the liver to work properly. Some patients who develop cirrhosis may eventually require a liver transplant (surgery to remove the damaged liver and replace it with a 'new' liver).
A non-alcoholic fatty liver disease usually causes no signs and symptoms. When it does, they may include an enlarged liver, Fatigue, discomfort in the upper right abdomen. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis are both linked to the following:
These combined health problems appear to promote the deposition of fat in the liver. For some people, this excess fat acts as a toxin to liver cells, causing liver inflammation and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, which may lead to a build-up of scar tissue (fibrosis) in the liver. Some patients with excessive fibrosis progress to cirrhosis.
With inputs from Dr Prasanna S Shah Interventional Gastroenterologist Jaslok Hospital And Research Centre, Mumbai.
Image source: Shutterstock
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