What is Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)?
Steatohepatitis (NASH) is part of a progressive continuum in a group of conditions called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
It is a type of NAFLD where a build-up of fat in the liver causes the liver to become inflamed and damaged.
Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) occurs when the liver becomes inflamed due to fat accumulation in the liver. It is associated with obesity, diabetes and all the elements of metabolic syndrome.
If the liver becomes scarred it may lead to cirrhosis. However, the disease doesn’t always get worse.
Usually NASH causes no or few symptoms, especially in the early stages.
Diagnosis often occurs for unrelated reasons when abnormal liver enzymes are detected on a blood test, or when image scan of the liver shows an abnormality.
NASH may cause the liver to swell, producing symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), very itchy skin, and weakness and confusion.
It may take many years for NASH to become severe enough to cause symptoms. If identified early, there’s a good chance of preventing and reversing any damage.
Experts are not sure why some people with NAFLD have NASH, and others have simple fatty liver. It is not related to excessive alcohol consumption and research suggests that certain genes may play a role.
People with NAFLD are more likely to have NASH if they have one or more of the following conditions:
- Obesity, especially with a large waist size
- High blood pressure
- High levels of triglycerides or abnormal levels of cholesterol in their blood
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome.
Treatment for NASH includes managing conditions that increase the risk factors.
- Reducing your total cholesterol level
- Reducing your weight
- Controlling diabetes
- Stopping or cutting back on alcohol
- Exercising regularly.
To date, no medicines have been approved to treat NASH. As it is such a growing problem, researchers are now working on medicines that may improve the conditions.
Lifestyle plays an important part in the management and treatment of NASH. It is important to have a healthy balanced diet, exercise, reduce or stop alcohol consumption and look after your mental health.