Center for Advanced Liver Diseases and Transplantation

Fatty Liver Disease

Fatty liver and Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis

In this condition an excessive amount of fat accumulates in the liver due to a variety of reasons. The most common reasons are excess weight, diabetes, excessive use of alcohol and hepatitis C. Because of the rapid rise in obesity in America, including among children, the number of individuals with fatty liver is rapidly rising. Most patients with fatty liver related to obesity or diabetes retain normal liver function and do not experience any problems during their lifetime. However, in some patients the excess fat causes inflammation in the liver known as Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH, as the condition sometimes is called. The damage is similar to that which occurs with alcoholic liver disease, but with NASH, the patients have consumed little or no alcohol. Like other liver diseases, NASH is typically "silent" in its early stage, and the first indication of the disease often comes from a routine blood test. Elevated liver enzymes indicate to a physician that something is irregular, leading to more tests and elimination of other conditions. It takes a liver biopsy to confirm a diagnosis of NASH; if there is only fat in the liver, but no inflammation or damage, that's indicative of a simple fatty liver.

There is currently no treatment for NASH, but studies indicate that by losing weight, getting more exercise, and eating a healthy diet, patients can stop or even reverse the damage caused by NASH.