What Is Silent Liver Disease and Why Has It Become So Common?

by | Jul 10, 2023 | Resilience

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The rates of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease have been soaring over the past three decades. Often, people don’t know that they have it until it has progressed into being a life-threatening condition.

Many people are aware of liver disease resulting from over-consumption of alcoholic beverages, or hepatitis. But what has become much more prevalent over the past three decades is form of liver disease known as “metabolic (non-alcoholic) associated fatty liver disease.” 

According to a report from NBC News: 

The rates of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease — which can lead to life-threatening conditions, including cirrhosis and cancer of the organ — have been soaring over the past three decades, a new study finds.

Overall, more than a third of the tens of thousands of adult participants in the study developed the condition, more recently referred to as metabolic associated fatty liver disease.

“More and more people are getting extra fat in their livers,” said co-author Dr. Theodore Friedman, an endocrinologist and professor of medicine at both the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.

Because many people with fatty liver disease don’t know they have the condition, it is often called a “silent disease” because it has few or no symptoms. People who do have symptoms may feel fatigued or discomfort in the upper right side of the abdomen. 

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, you are more likely to develop Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease if you have the following health conditions or diseases: 

  • overweight or obesity 
  • insulin resistance  
  • type 2 diabetes 
  • abnormal levels of fats in your blood 
  • one or more traits of metabolic syndrome (see eSavvyHealth Insight “What Is Metabolic Health”) 

If it progresses, silent liver disease can become a much more serious condition known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) resulting in scaring (cirrhosis) or cancer of the organ.  

While there is no medication to treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, Friedman notes that, “People who exercise and lose a lot of weight can revert to normal.” 

Understanding what the liver does for the body and how it can become impaired by fat (see eSavvyHealth Insight “How Does My Liver Get Fat?”) can help you get the upper hand over the prevention of this disease.  

Fundamentals of Health Alliance

Fundamentals of Health Alliance

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The Fundamentals of Health Alliance works to publish useful and reliable information about nutrition and health. Their mission is to empower readers to be informed with honest, non-biased information about food, nutrition and the vital components of health.

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