Causes of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver DiseaseNAFLD occurs when the liver has trouble breaking down fats, causing them to build up in the liver tissue. It's also part of metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by diabetes or pre-diabetes, and the individual being overweight or obese, with elevated blood lipid levels and high blood pressure. It's believed that NAFLD affects as many as 1-in-3 to 1-in-5 adults, and over 1-in-10 children in the United States. Obesity is thought to be the most common cause of fat buildup in the liver, and it's estimated that about 2/3 of obese adults and 1/2 of obese children may have fatty liver disease. (2) While researchers know less about what causes NASH to develop, they've identified several risk factors that may contribute to its development: (3)
- Oxidative stress - an imbalance between pro-oxidant and anti-oxidant chemicals that cause liver cell damage.
- Production and release of toxic inflammatory proteins by the patient's own inflammatory cells, liver cells or fat cells.
- Liver cell necrosis or death, known as apoptosis.
- Adipose tissue (fat tissue) inflammation and infiltration by white blood cells.
- Gut microbiota (intestinal bacteria) may also play a role in liver inflammation.
Symptoms of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver DiseaseUnfortunately, those who develop nonalcoholic fatty liver disease may experience little to no symptoms. but there are often several tell-tale signs of a problem, including: (4)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Trouble concentrating
- Abdominal pain (Children may exhibit abdominal pain in the center or the right upper part of the abdomen)
- Weakness and fatigue - This type of fatigue does not respond to rest.
- Skin discoloration - Those with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease may have patchy, dark discoloration of the skin, most commonly on the neck and under the arms.