The liver is the silent hero of our bodies, constantly toiling away. This second largest organ in our body plays a critical role of converting what we consume into energy – metabolizing nutrients, and transforming harmful toxins into harmless substances.
However, in recent decades, doctors around the world have observed the prevalence of a new chronic liver disease afflicting adults in tandem with high rates of obesity and diabetes. When fat cells build up in the liver, this is called Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). A study, discussed at the International Liver Congress in Berlin in 2011, revealed that from 1988 to 2008 the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease doubled from 5.5% to 11%. The research further showed that from 1988 to 1994, 46.8% of chronic liver disease was related to NAFLD and this percentage had risen to 75.1% in the 2005 to 2008 period.
Complications can set in when scar tissue replaces healthy tissue and inflammation develops in the liver gets. When NAFLD is not diagnosed on time, this leading to a more severe condition called Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH). This seriously compromises the liver’s ability to perform its functions and can often lead to cirrhosis requiring liver transplantation and, in some cases, a higher risk of liver cancer.
There are no specific signs or symptoms of NAFLD although when they do occur, it’s often at a later stage and may include fatigue, rapid weight loss, abdominal pain, and sometimes jaundice.
Dr. Ganesh Bhat, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Medeor 24×7 Hospital remarked, “Due to the lack of obvious symptoms, I advise my patients who are overweight or have diabetes and high cholesterol that they have an increased risk of developing NAFLD. It’s a well-known fact that the obesity statistics in this part of the world are alarming with the UAE having double the world average of obesity rates. Moreover a sedentary lifestyle together with dependence on convenient takeaways and fast food contributes to adversely affecting our health and NAFLD has manifested from this choice of lifestyle.”
Tests to diagnose NAFLD include liver function blood tests, CT scans, MRIs and, in some cases, liver biopsies where a sample tissue is tested for scarring and inflammation. It is vital to rule out possibilities of any other liver diseases before a confirmed diagnosis of NAFLD is determined.
There are currently no medicines or standard procedure to treat and doctor’s instead opt to treat the likely causes that lead to this disease.
Dr. Ganesh Bhat said, “NAFLD is on course to become a major public health challenge for populations around the region. The best prevention is taking control and the right step is to cultivate a healthy lifestyle – from diet to exercise. Get active and stay active. Be mindful of what you consume, avoid alcohol; modify diets by eliminating processed meals and food products with hidden sugars. Those with an elevated risk must try to lose weight, lower their cholesterol levels and control diabetes.”
“At Medeor 24×7 Hospital, we constantly endeavor to highlight the importance of good health for the residents of Dubai and the UAE. We strongly advocate our community to pursue a healthy lifestyle and we believe that prevention and raising awareness of various health issues goes a long way in ensuring a healthy society”, said Dr. Shajir Gaffar, CEO – VPS Healthcare for Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
Courtesy of Medeor 24×7 Hospital