• Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

    (NAFLD, Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis [NASH])


    Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease involves the build-up of fat in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol. It is a common condition. NAFLD may not cause any problems if it is mild. In some cases, it can cause inflammation and scarring in the liver. If this is severe, it can cause liver failure.
    The Liver
    Nucleus factsheet image
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    When the liver is unable to break down fats, they build up in liver tissue. Many conditions and diseases make it difficult for the liver to break down fats.

    Risk Factors

    NAFLD is more common in men and with increasing age. Other factors that increase the chance of NAFLD include:


    This disease often causes no symptoms. If fatty build-up is causing the liver not to function well, you may have symptoms. Symptoms may include:
    • Fatigue
    • Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen
    • Muscle weakness
    • Jaundice
    • Itchy skin
    • Lack of appetite
    • Weight loss
    • Nausea
    NAFLD should be treated as soon as possible. Untreated NAFLD can progress to cirrhosis and increase your risk of other conditions, such as chronic kidney disease.


    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
    Tests may include:
    • Blood tests—to look for raised liver enzymes
    • Ultrasound—a test that uses sound waves to examine the liver
    • CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the abdomen
    • Liver biopsy —a small piece of your liver is removed and examined


    Treatment focuses on the factors that are causing fatty liver disease. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment may focus on avoiding certain medications, chemicals, or lifestyle factors that can damage your liver.

    Weight Loss

    Weight loss of 10% of a person's body weight has been shown to cure the disease. If you are overweight, your doctor may recommend weight loss through:
    • Healthy eating
    • Exercise
    • Behavioral therapy
    • Medication
    • Bariatric surgery in serious cases


    Your doctor may recommend medications to control the condition causing NAFLD.


    To reduce your chance of getting fatty liver disease, take the following steps:
    • Maintain a healthy weight by eating a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables , whole grains, and unsaturated fats.
    • Get at least 30 minutes of daily exercise.
    • Manage other medical conditions as directed by your doctor.


    American Liver Foundation http://www.liverfoundation.org

    Gastro—American Gastroenterological Association http://www.gastro.org


    The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology http://www.cag-acg.org

    Canadian Liver Foundation http://www.liver.ca


    Bayard M, Holt J, et al. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(11):1961-1968.

    Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. American Liver Foundation website. Available at: http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/nafld. Updated October 4, 2011. Accessed May 14, 2013.

    Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 9, 2012. Accessed May 14, 2013.

    Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/liver-disease/nonalcoholic-steatohepatitis/Pages/facts.aspx. Updated April 30, 2012. Accessed May 14, 2013.

    1/31/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Zaman A. Promote weight loss in patients with NAFLD. NEJM Journal Watch. Published September 24, 2013. Accessed October 1, 2013.

    10/8/2014 1/31/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Musso G, Gambino R, et al. Association of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease with chronic kidney disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS Med. 2014;11(7):e1001680.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.