Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

What is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition where there is too much fat in the liver cells, which is not due to alcohol consumption. Everyone has a small amount of fat in the liver cells but when there are too many fat cells, it results in liver damage.

The following are 3 stages of Fatty liver disease:

  1. Build up of fat in the liver cells
  2. Liver inflammation and possible fibrosis
  3. Cirrhosis or scarring of the liver

What are the signs and symptoms of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?

Usually there are no symptoms of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. However, when symptoms do happen they can include:

  • Enlarged liver
  • Pain in upper right abdomen
  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Nausea
  • Feeling generally unwell

What causes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease causes can include:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Insulin resistance
  • High blood pressure
  • Hyperlipidemia (increased levels of fat in the blood)
  • Long term use of total parenteral nutrition (TPN – a feeding procedure that involves infusing nutrients directly into the blood stream)
  • Genetic factors

Can other liver diseases cause fat in the liver?

Yes, there are other liver diseases that can cause fat in the liver. That is why before making a diagnosis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, other blood tests and imaging tests are often performed. This allows the medical team involved in the care of the patient to ensure that they identify the right cause for the fat in the liver.

How is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease diagnosed?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is usually diagnosed by:

  • Blood tests
  • Imaging studies such as ultrasound, Computerized tomography (CT) scanning or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Magnetic resonance elastography (MRE)
  • Liver biopsy

What is the treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?

Currently, there are no proven medications to treat Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease includes:

  • If your child is overweight, strive for a gradual weigh loss or at least no extra weight gain
  • Exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes every day of the week
  • Eat a well balanced diet that is low in saturated fats and high in fibre
  • If your child is a diabetic – improve the control of blood sugar levels



REMINDER: This information is intended to provide general information and should not be used to base a diagnosis or treatment. Please consult the doctors about your specific condition and the approach for treatment.