In current times, childhood and adult obesity is on the rise. Obesity poses a risk on many levels and one in particular is a disease called NAFLD or also known as Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. This disease tends to develop in overweight or obese people or those with diabetes and is caused by extra fat building up in the liver cells. NAFLD is one cause of fatty liver and happens when fat is deposited to the liver and is not caused by excessive alcohol use. NAFLD is also directly related to individuals who are insulin resistant. A more extreme form of this disease is called NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis) which causes cirrhosis of the liver without any known cause. The basis for me researching this disease is due to the fact that I lost my mom five months ago to NAFLD which transformed into NASH and liver cancer which spread to her kidneys and pancreas within weeks of diagnosis.
The liver is a soft, wedge shaped organ that is reddish-brown in color due to the rich blood supply and is located in the upper right corner of the abdomen beneath the diaphragm and contains two major blood vessels, the portal vein and the hepatic artery. The hepatic artery carries oxygen rich blood from the aorta and the portal vein carries blood containing digested food from the small intestine. The liver is responsible for many functions needed for survival such as producing bile and breaking down fat, removing toxic substances from the blood, converts ammonia to urea which is the main substance in urine, producing cholesterol, converting glucose to glycogen and storing vitamins and minerals. Liver tissue is made up of thousands of lobules which are formed by hepatic cells which are the basic metabolic cells of the liver.
There are many diseases attributed to a malfunctioning liver and many of them can be life threatening if left untreated. Some signs of a failing liver in a human are jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of eyes due to increased bilirubin) which is the most obvious sign, an enlarged spleen, an enlarged liver, fatigue, weight loss and loss of appetite to name a few. Abnormal liver function can be caused by certain medications that you take such as acetaminophen which will eventually lead to cell death in the liver, drinking alcohol can lead to cirrhosis of the liver which is the result of scar tissue forming and can also be a concern during pregnancy with a condition called Eclampsia where your blood pressure rises to an unsafe level. Abnormal liver can also be caused by a host of different diseases such as Hepatitis, Wilson’s disease or Crohn’s Disease and cancer of liver which can lead to elevated enzyme levels in the liver. In Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, the symptoms may never present themselves. The disease does tend to run in families so you can inherit abnormal liver problems. In the very early stages of NAFLD, you may have a dull ache in your upper right abdomen and feel fatigued. As the disease progresses, inflammation and signs of the cells dying may begin to show. Eventually scar tissue forms as cell injury continues. Scarring of the liver results in a hard liver that is unable to function. This is the stage when cirrhosis of the liver begins. Cirrhosis of the liver is almost always fatal. In advanced stages of NAFLD you may begin to feel a fullness in you abdomen from fluid building up in your abdominal cavity, lack of appetite, itchiness in your hands and feet that eventually goes through your entire body, loss of sexual interest, mental confusion, swelling of your legs and feet due to fluid retention, small red spider veins under your skin and easy bruising, bleeding from veins in your esophagus or intestines, weakness and fatigue. These symptoms can easily be overlooked by many other diseases.
NAFLD is diagnosed through a series of tests. Early detection of liver disease is very