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In 2011 my mom was diagnosed with a liver disease. Because we had never heard of this disease before, and because this particular disease is becoming more prevalent in our society, I thought I would share with you what exactly it is.
NASH (Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis) is a silent disease with few or no symptoms. It resembles alcoholic liver disease, but occurs in people who drink little or no alcohol. The major feature of NASH is fat in the liver, along with inflammation and damage. Most people with NASH feel well and are not aware they have a liver problem, therefore the disease is most often detected during routine blood panel tests. NASH can be severe and lead to cirrhosis, in which the liver is permanently damaged and scarred and no longer able to work properly.
Although NASH has become more common, its underlying cause is still not clear. It most often occurs in persons who are middle aged (40-60 years) and more women are affected over men. Many patients with NASH have elevated blood lipids, such as cholesterol and triglycerides, and many have diabetes or pre-diabetes, but not every obese person or every patient with diabetes has NASH. Furthermore, some patients with NASH have normal blood cholesterol and lipids. NASH can occur without any apparent risk factor and can even occur in children. Thus NASH is not simply obesity that affects the liver.
NASH ranks as one of the major causes of cirrhosis in America, behind hepatitis C and alcoholic liver disease. Even though not every person with NASH develops cirrhosis, up to 25% of adults may. Once serious scarring and cirrhosis of the liver occurs, few treatments can halt the progression of the disease. Liver transplantation is the only treatment for advanced cirrhosis with liver failure, and transplantation is increasingly performed in people with NASH.
You can read more about NASH at the American Liver Foundation website (liverfoundation.org) or the US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.