Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver
All non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is not alike. If it’s in the beginning stages, it’s called non-alcoholic liver disease. At this stage, there are very few symptoms. Someone might have fatigue more than usual, weakness and weight loss but that’s about it. Many patients don’t have any symptoms at all. Yet if the condition progresses, it can be a silent killer.
Steatohepatitis Means Inflammation
But when non-alcoholic fatty liver disease progresses to the next stage, it’s called steatohepatitis or NASH. It affects up to 5 percent of all Americans. In this stage, inflammation sets in. Inflammation causes congestion no matter where it occurs in the body. When it’s in your liver, the inflammation is affecting a critical organ. Congestion in your major detoxification organ can only mean that your body can’t detoxify itself very well from prescription medications, chemicals and preservatives in foods, toxic metals and other toxins.
Symptoms also begin in steatohepatitis but they are similar to fatty liver disease where there’s fatigue, weight loss and weakness.
In steatohepatitis, the lab tests will show an elevated ALT level or alanine aminotransferase levels or even AST or aspartate aminotransferase levels. However, you could have elevated ALT or AST levels for a number of reasons, so a liver biopsy is really the determining diagnostic point for steatohepatitis.
Cirrhosis is the Last Stage
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in the final stages is called cirrhosis. All cases might not progress to this stage but if they do, it may become fatal. In cirrhosis, the functional tissue of the liver is changed to scar tissue. Not all of the liver becomes affected, but as the cells become more and more affected, the symptoms worsen. The person’s belly swells so it looks like a large beach ball or like the person is pregnant.
There may be skin changes when the skin color changes to yellow along with the whites of the eyes, mental symptoms such as confusion and personality changes, and kidney damage. The spleen enlarges too. To diagnose cirrhosis, your doctor will decide to do a biopsy, which will show scarring in the cells. A liver transplant is almost always necessary at this point.