Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Our expert care for this disease means faster, safer and better treatments for you

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) involves increased fatty deposits in your liver tissue. These deposits can impair functioning. Often, you do not have symptoms until it progresses to a later stage.

At IU Health, our expert physicians can diagnose fatty liver disease in its early stages. We will monitor your condition, reduce your risk factors and prevent disease progression.

Two kinds of fatty liver disease exist:

  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL)
  • Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)

Both kinds involve increased fatty deposits in your liver tissue. These both can impact proper function. Only NASH can progress to cirrhosis. Nearly one-third of Americans have a fatty liver unrelated to alcohol consumption. Alcohol-induced liver disease also causes fatty deposits in the liver.

Symptoms

You may have right upper abdominal pain. This comes from an increase in the size of your liver from fatty deposition. Often, people do not have any symptoms.

Diagnosis

At IU Health, your physicians may use any number of tools to diagnose your condition. They may use:

Early Intervention

Physicians most often detect nonalcoholic fatty liver disease through routine blood tests. In these tests, we check your liver function and liver enzymes. Your physician may prescribe this test as part of a regular physical exam.

Imaging Tests

If your physician suspects you have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, imaging tests can provide the right information for a diagnosis. Tests such as a computed tomography (CT) scan and/or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used.

FibroScan

This new technology allows for a quick scan of your liver and spleen. The test checks for stiffness in your liver tissue (cirrhosis) and fatty deposits. You and your physician receive immediate test results. Together, you can determine treatment options. If the scan shows fatty deposits with scarring, then you may need a biopsy.

Liver Biopsy

Your physician can study your liver cells under a microscope to confirm NASH. This involves taking cells from your liver through a needle to determine if they show scarring and inflammation.

    Understanding Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

    Two kinds of fatty liver disease exist:

    • Nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL)
    • Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)

    Both kinds involve increased fatty deposits in your liver tissue. These both can impact proper function. Only NASH can progress to cirrhosis. Nearly one-third of Americans have a fatty liver unrelated to alcohol consumption. Alcohol-induced liver disease also causes fatty deposits in the liver.

    Symptoms

    You may have right upper abdominal pain. This comes from an increase in the size of your liver from fatty deposition. Often, people do not have any symptoms.

    Diagnosis

    At IU Health, your physicians may use any number of tools to diagnose your condition. They may use:

    Early Intervention

    Physicians most often detect nonalcoholic fatty liver disease through routine blood tests. In these tests, we check your liver function and liver enzymes. Your physician may prescribe this test as part of a regular physical exam.

    Imaging Tests

    If your physician suspects you have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, imaging tests can provide the right information for a diagnosis. Tests such as a computed tomography (CT) scan and/or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used.

    FibroScan

    This new technology allows for a quick scan of your liver and spleen. The test checks for stiffness in your liver tissue (cirrhosis) and fatty deposits. You and your physician receive immediate test results. Together, you can determine treatment options. If the scan shows fatty deposits with scarring, then you may need a biopsy.

    Liver Biopsy

    Your physician can study your liver cells under a microscope to confirm NASH. This involves taking cells from your liver through a needle to determine if they show scarring and inflammation.

      At IU Health, physicians have an advanced understanding of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. This means faster, safer, better treatments and therapies for you. This can remove the need for invasive biopsies in some cases. It can preserve your liver function. We may use any number of the following treatments:

      • Weight management. If overweight or obese, losing weight can improve your condition. Our registered dietitians help you plan a healthy diet.
      • Exercise. Your physician works with you to finds ways to stay active through regular workouts. This can help you lose weight and maintain your health.
      • Medicines. No medicine treats nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NASH. However, medicines for other conditions may reduce symptoms and keep fatty liver disease under control.
      • Protection. Avoiding alcohol and following instructions for taking prescription medicines and over-the-counter drugs can prevent further damage to your liver.
      • Research. Our physicians are affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. That means they investigate new ways to diagnose fatty liver disease and define improvements in treating the condition.

      Treatment

      At IU Health, physicians have an advanced understanding of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. This means faster, safer, better treatments and therapies for you. This can remove the need for invasive biopsies in some cases. It can preserve your liver function. We may use any number of the following treatments:

      • Weight management. If overweight or obese, losing weight can improve your condition. Our registered dietitians help you plan a healthy diet.
      • Exercise. Your physician works with you to finds ways to stay active through regular workouts. This can help you lose weight and maintain your health.
      • Medicines. No medicine treats nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NASH. However, medicines for other conditions may reduce symptoms and keep fatty liver disease under control.
      • Protection. Avoiding alcohol and following instructions for taking prescription medicines and over-the-counter drugs can prevent further damage to your liver.
      • Research. Our physicians are affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. That means they investigate new ways to diagnose fatty liver disease and define improvements in treating the condition.

      Patient Stories for Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

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