Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a condition in which fat accumulates within the liver. This is known as steatosis. Accumulation of fat may cause progressive inflammation of the liver or steatohepatitis. If left untreated, this may eventually result in chronic liver disease or cirrhosis. Fatty liver disease is seen in patients with obesity, elevated cholesterol and diabetes. It may also be associated with the use of certain medications.
Most patients with fatty liver disease have no symptoms. The diagnosis is often discovered when blood tests reveal an elevation in the blood liver enzymes. Patients may have liver enlargement. If cirrhosis develops, patients may experience symptoms associated with its complications, such as confusion, abdominal swelling or gastrointestinal bleeding.
Fatty liver disease is typically diagnosed by the presence of elevated liver enzymes on blood tests. Appropriate studies are then performed to exclude other potential causes of liver disease. On ultrasound, the liver is often noted to be bright or echogenic due to fat deposition in the liver. A liver biopsy may be performed to determine if inflammation or scarring of the liver is present.
At this time there is no specific treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Patients should be encouraged to maintain ideal body weight, avoid alcohol consumption, control elevation in cholesterol and triglycerides, and aggressively treat underlying diabetes mellitus.