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Fatty liver disease can be hard to detect

By Staff | Jan 22, 2013

Dr. Puneet S. Basi from the Susquehanna Health Digestive Disease Center discussed the risks and progression of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease at the Life Center on January 8.

MUNCY – Dr. Puneet Basi who recently received his board certification for gastroenterology gave an informative talk at the Life Center on January 8 on Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), one of the known causes of liver disease in the United States. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is a term used to describe the accumulation of fat in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol.

Most patients who are at risk for NAFLD are in their 40’s or 50’s according to Dr. Basi, a specialist with the Susquehanna Health Digestive Disease Center. “Fat builds inside the liver and could possibly lead to fibrosis scarring, ” he said. “There are two types, one with or without inflammation,” he added, “and one is more progressive than the other.” This more serious form is known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.

Non-drinkers who are obese are the highest risk. 66.2% of American adults are overweight described Basi in his power-point presentation. Other conditions can be associated with NAFLD such as diabetes and hypertension. The scary part is that there are no significant signs or symptoms. “Most patients are asymptomatic,” Dr. Basi said.

However, liver tests can diagnose NAFLD in lab findings. Using imaging procedures and biopsies will help determine fat in the liver, especially if there is an exclusion of significant alcohol consumption. A diagnosis will be based on five percent of fat or more in the liver.

NAFLD is typically caused when the liver can no longer break down the fats. According to Dr. Basi some common causes could be starvation, medications, pregnancy or hepatitis. One must be careful not to avoid treatment for NAFLD, for it could turn into cirrhosis, or irreversible scarring of the liver. “This could also develop into cancer,” added Dr. Basi.

Risk factors include age if over 50, diabetes, high levels of triglycerides and obesity. “Weight loss is the best thing,” he described. “Coffee can lower the risk. It is best to target diet and exercise. Make it sustainable.”

Some treatment could be through gastric bypass surgery if extremely obese. “We treat blood glucose and high cholesterol first. Vitamin E improves aminotransferase levels,” he explained. However, no standard treatment for NAFLD truly exists. If overweight, controlling the sugar and the cholesterol is best recommends Dr. Basi.

The health program was co-sponsored this month with Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania and Susquehanna Health.