Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) involves the build-up of fat in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol. It is a common condition. NAFLD may not cause any problems if it is mild. In some cases, it can cause inflammation and scarring in the liver. If this is severe, it can cause liver failure.
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When the liver is unable to break down fats, they build up in liver tissue. Many conditions and diseases make it difficult for the liver to break down fats.
NAFLD is more common in men and with increasing age. Other factors that increase the chance of NAFLD include: Obesity
DiabetesHigh cholesterolSevere weight lossSome medicationsExposure to certain chemicals
This disease often causes no symptoms. If fatty build-up is causing the liver not to function well, you may have symptoms. Symptoms may include: FatiguePain in the upper right side of the abdomenMuscle weaknessYellowing of the skin and the white part of the eyes—jaundiceItchy skinLack of appetiteWeight lossNausea
NAFLD should be treated as soon as possible. Untreated NAFLD can progress to cirrhosis and increase your risk of other conditions, such as chronic kidney disease.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include: Blood tests—to look for raised liver enzymesUltrasound—a test that uses sound waves to examine the liverCT scan
—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the abdomen
—a small piece of your liver is removed and examined
Treatment focuses on the factors that are causing fatty liver disease. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may focus on avoiding certain medications, chemicals, or lifestyle factors that can damage your liver.
Weight loss of 10% of a person's body weight has been shown to cure the disease. If you are overweight, your doctor may recommend weight loss through: Healthy eatingExerciseBehavioral therapyMedicationBariatric surgery in serious cases
Your doctor may recommend medications to control the condition causing NAFLD.
To reduce your chance of NAFLD:
Maintain a healthy weight by eating a diet that is rich in
fruits and vegetables
, whole grains, and unsaturated fats.
Get at least 30 minutes of daily exercise.Manage other medical conditions as directed by your doctor.
Bayard M, Holt J, Boroughs E. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
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Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. American Liver Foundation website. Available at:
http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/nafld. Updated October 4, 2011. Accessed May 14, 2013.
Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/liver-disease/nonalcoholic-steatohepatitis/Pages/facts.aspx. Updated April 30, 2012. Accessed May 14, 2013.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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