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International NASH Day: Know about NASH, a liver disease not caused by the alcohol

International NASH Day (IND) was first launched on June 12th, 2018. It is a public education campaign launched to raise awareness about fatty liver disease and its more advanced form, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Fatty liver disease is one of the most widespread and undiagnosed health conditions in our country, and cases are increasing at an alarming rate. NASH is a hidden epidemic affecting more than 115 million people around the world.

This year, International NASH Day is held on June 9th.

What is NAFLD and NASH?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which too much fat builds up in the liver. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is caused when that extra fat turns into inflammation (swelling in the liver) and fibrosis (scarring) of the liver.

Who is at risk?

NAFLD is more common in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.

How serious is it?

The symptoms of NASH are not specific or overt, and hence, NASH is often underdiagnosed and underreported.

In a large study in India, 56.5% of patients overall with type 2 diabetes mellitus between the ages of 25 and 84 had NAFLD. In the northern Indian states alone, NAFLD was prevalent in 72.4%. An estimated 357 million people will be affected worldwide by 2030.

How is NAFLD/NASH diagnosed?

Diagnosing NAFLD in children, young people, and adults with type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome can be done with a liver ultrasound. There are certain blood tests which can help in diagnosis.

What are the risks if NAFLD/ NASH is left undiagnosed or untreated?

NAFLD is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease. It is also a risk factor for atrial fibrillation, myocardial infarction, ischaemic stroke, and death from cardiovascular causes in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus. If left untreated, it can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer, potentially requiring a liver transplant.

What are the treatment options for NAFLD/NASH?

Reversing and even preventing fatty liver disease is possible. There is some evidence that exercise reduces the liver fat content. Treatment mainly focuses on diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications.

Certain medications used to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus could potentially be useful for managing NAFLD or NASH, but there is currently little evidence and more work is needed to fully understand the potential benefits of these treatments.

Patients at risk can speak with their physician or endocrinologist today to get evaluated for NAFLD and identify any risks that might lead to them developing NASH.

Dr Chandan Kamath, FRCP (UK), MRCP (D&E), CCT (UK).

Consultant Endocrinologist,

Adhrit Diabetes & Endocrine Clinic,

# 1-4, UGF, Eureka Junction,

T.B. Road, Hubballi -580029.

To schedule an appointment, call 9886320307.

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