Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a generic term for multiple and varied liver conditions that affect people who drink very little to no alcohol. As the name suggests, the essential characteristic of liver disease of nonalcoholic fatty liver is a large accumulation of fat in liver cells.

Nonalcoholic hepatic steatosis, a very serious pattern of the disease, is characterized by inflammation of the liver that can progress toward irreversible damage. This damage is similar to that caused by excessive alcohol consumption. In its most severe form, nonalcoholic hepatic steatosis might progress to cirrhosis and liver failure.

Hepatic disease of non-alcoholic fatty liver is becoming more frequent throughout the world, especially in Western countries. In the United States, it is the most common form of chronic liver disease that affects approximately 80 to 100 million people.

Liver disease of non-alcoholic fatty liver occurs in all age groups, especially in people between 40 and 60 years who have a high risk of heart disease due to risk factors such as obesity and type II diabetes. The condition is also closely linked to the metabolic syndrome, a group of abnormalities that include increased abdominal fat, poor ability to consume insulin, high blood pressure and high levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat).

What Causes You To Have A Fatty Liver?

What Causes You To Have A Fatty Liver?

Healthcare professionals do not know precisely why some patients accumulate fat in the liver and others do not. Also, there is limited understanding of why some fatty livers develop inflammation that progresses to cirrhosis. Both nonalcoholic fatty liver and non-alcoholic fatty liver steatosis are related to the following factors: Overweight or obesity, insulin resistance: when cells do not process sugar in response to the hormone insulin, a high blood glucose level (hyperglycemia) that indicates prediabetes or type 2 diabetes and high levels of fats in the blood, particularly triglycerides.

These combined health problems seem to stimulate the deposit of fat in the liver. For some people, this excess of fat acts as toxic substances in the liver cells, which produces inflammation of the liver and nonalcoholic hepatic steatosis that cause the accumulation of scar tissue (fibrosis) in the liver.

Risk Factors:

A vast variety of pathologies and conditions may increase your risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; these include:

Non-alcoholic hepatic steatosis is more likely to be developed by these groups: Old people, people with diabetes, and people with body fat concentrated in the abdomen.
It is hard to distinguish liver disease from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease without additional tests.

The fundamental complication of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is cirrhosis, which is the end-stage scarring (fibrosis) of the liver. Cirrhosis occurs in response to liver damage, such as inflammation in nonalcoholic hepatic steatosis. While the liver tries to stop the inflammation, it produces areas of scarring (fibrosis). With a continuous inflammation, the fibrosis expands to appropriate more and more liver tissue.

Cirrhosis is the last and irreversible stage of deterioration of the liver, represented by the destruction of the parenchyma (it is the functional component of the liver) and the formation of fibrotic regeneration nodules.

If the process does not stop, cirrhosis can produce accumulation of fluid in the abdomen (ascites), swelling of the veins in the esophagus (esophageal varices) that can break and bleed, disorientation, drowsiness and stammering (hepatic encephalopathy), liver cancer, end-stage liver failure which means that the liver has stopped working.

About 20 percent of people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease develop cirrhosis.

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: October 31, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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