What Is Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis?
Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a type of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD develops when you have fat buildup in your liver. NASH is a more severe, aggressive type of fatty liver disease, which includes liver inflammation and damage along with fat buildup.
Over time, NASH can lead to cirrhosis, where scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue. NASH can look similar to other types of liver disease commonly seen in people who heavily drink alcohol for many years. However, with NASH, you’ll develop liver damage even if you don’t abuse alcohol.
How Common Is NASH Liver Disease?
Though NAFLD can be seen in 25% of adults, NASH is relatively less common. Experts estimate that NASH affects about 1.5% to 6.5% of adults in the United States.
NASH Liver Disease Symptoms
Many people have no symptoms in the early stages of NASH. You may feel fine for many years before noticing any signs of NASH liver disease.
As liver damage worsens, you may experience these symptoms.
- Aches in your upper right abdomen
- Chronic fatigue
- Heneral weakness
- Jaundice (yellowish skin and eyes)
- Red palms
- Unexplained weight loss
NASH Risk Factors
Your risk of developing NASH increases if you have metabolic syndrome. This means you have at least three of the following five factors:
- Elevated fasting blood sugar (glucose), as seen in prediabetes or diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Increased triglycerides
- Low high-density lipoprotein (HDL or good cholesterol)
- Waist size larger than 35 inches for females or 40 inches for males
Several other health conditions may also be associated with having NASH:
Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) Treatment
Your NASH treatment plan will focus on weight loss to slow liver damage. Your doctor may advise that you lose weight by:
- eating a nutritious diet,
- exercising more frequently, or
- undergoing weight loss surgery, if needed.
Losing weight helps to manage the underlying health problems that tend to lead to NASH. Losing 3% to 5% of your body weight can reduce the fat in your liver and lower your risk of severe NASH, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Your doctor may recommend a liver transplant if you have severe liver cirrhosis.
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Life Expectancy: NASH Liver Disease
Can NASH Liver Disease Be Reversed?
Right now, there are no medications to reverse NASH liver disease In addition to helping with weight loss, doctors are researching new medical treatments to reverse or cure NASH liver disease.
Complications of NASH
The main complication of NASH is cirrhosis (advanced liver scarring). As cirrhosis worsens over time, you may develop complications such as:
- fluid buildup in your abdomen;
- end-stage liver failure;
- hepatic encephalopathy, which causes confusion, slurred speech, or drowsiness;
- liver cancer; or
- swelling in your esophageal veins with spontaneous internal bleeding.