What is fatty liver disease?
The most common liver disorder in Canada, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an accumulation of excess fat in liver cells, taking up five to 10 per cent of the entire organ. Typically, consuming too much alcohol is a primary cause of fat build-up in the liver, but those with NAFLD may not drink much alcohol at all. It is assumed that 20 to 25 per cent of the Canadian population has this disease. Dr. Harmeet Malhi, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic, says it is the leading cause of chronic liver disease worldwide. Though it causes no permanent damage, NAFLD can progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which can result in cirrhosis (irreversible scarring of the liver) or liver cancer, which is on the rise in Canada.
NAFLD is asymptomatic, meaning it usually has no physical symptoms. However, you should consult your doctor if you have any of the following risk factors. Doctors may use a variety of factors to diagnose the condition, such as blood tests, an abdominal ultrasound scan or a liver biopsy.