What is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)?
NAFLD or fatty liver is a liver disease that happens slowly over time. It starts when fat builds up inside the liver. Over time, too much fat can stay in the liver, causing problems. NAFLD can be mild or severe.
- In mild cases, children only have fat build-up.
- In severe cases—also called Non-Alcoholic SteatoHepatitis (NASH)—fat is combined with liver damage (inflammation or irritation) which can cause scar tissue. The scar tissue is called fibrosis. As fibrosis builds up, it may lead to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis occurs when the liver is scarred and stops working properly.
- Fluid in the belly or legs
- Increased liver enzyme levels in your child’s blood
- Abdominal pain
NAFLD typically begins around the ages of 8 or 9, but has been seen in children as young as 5.
What causes NAFLD?
NAFLD usually occurs in children and teenagers who are overweight or gain too much weight. Most of the time, fatty liver happens with other health problems, such as:
- Prediabetes, insulin resistance or diabetes
- High triglycerides—triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood used for energy
- Being overweight