It’s estimated a hundred-million Americans have it, and the vast majority don’t know it. And what they don’t know, could harm them.
Medical experts say fatty liver disease is one of the most widespread, and undiagnosed, health conditions in this country.
As we see more cases we also see more need for liver transplants.
Cases of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease are blowing up in this country. A condition where excess fat builds up in the liver.
Dr. Mazen Albeldawi is a gastroenterologist with NCH. He said, “Fatty liver disease is one of those diseases that is very closely associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome. Okay. And we have an obesity epidemic in the United States and it’s only getting worse. So the rates of fatty liver disease in North America are skyrocketing.”
Dr. Albeldawi says there are no outward symptoms initially, but the excess fat causes inflammation and may lead to scarring, stiffening and worse. Medicare reporting it as a crisis for the elderly, older women in particular.
“Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, is the number one cause for liver transplantation now in the United States,” he added.
The result is more seniors are waiting on transplant lists, as obesity-related liver failure surpasses alcoholism and Hepatitis C.
There’s no specific treatment for fatty liver disease, making it important to address underlying causes and avoid progression to the most dangerous form: which is cirrhosis.
“It’s a very serious disease.” Dr. Albeldawi added. “It’s but on the other hand, if caught early on, there are various measures that can be taken like intensive lifestyle modifications, diet exercise, regular monitoring. So that we can ultimately improve our patient care and outcomes.”
Most severely impacted are older people with a body mass index over 40. Addressing weight alleviates the burden, a 10% weight loss can make a big difference.
To give you an idea of how big this problem is getting, in the early 2000s fatty liver necessitated 9% of all transplants, now it is nearing 25%.