Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are both liver conditions that are best given immediate attention. NAFLD is the commoner and the milder of the two.
When NAFLD graduates into NASH, it can become life-threatening, resulting in liver cancer or scarring. Early detection makes for effective treatment and recovery.
This liver condition can happen to anyone. However, women of reproductive age are more resistant to it than men are.
Great news! There are early symptoms of NASH/NAFLD that can indicate their presence. You do not have to wait until this condition becomes a threat.
These symptoms will prompt you to get an early diagnosis, resulting in the timely treatment of the condition. Different available test methods can be used to diagnose NASH/NAFLD.
This article will inform you about the early symptoms of NASH and the test methods available for accurate diagnosis.
Anyone can have NAFLD, but it can be genetic, which is not the proven cause of the liver condition. However, it has been associated with overweight people or high blood lipid or liver enzyme levels.
Hence, anyone with a high level of fats in the blood is prone to NAFLD.
Remember that NAFLD is a condition where the liver gets inflamed by too much fat storage. When this fat becomes a problem to bodily function, it is necessary to test the liver to properly diagnose the condition.
A liver blood test is required to examine the extent of liver inflammation and exclude other probable causes like gallstones or infection.
Though there are no major symptoms of NASH/NAFLD, some biological abnormalities are associated with it.
These abnormalities are symptoms that will help in the early detection of the disease.
The early symptoms of NASH and NAFLD are as follows:
- Excessive tiredness
- Upper right abdominal pain
- Ascites (The swelling of the abdomen)
- Swollen spleen
- Visibly swollen blood vessels underneath the skin’s surface
- Abnormally red palms
- Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
- Dark color urine and poo
- Itching and bruising of the skin
- Presence of blood in vomit
- Encephalopathy (mood swings, confusion, and forgetfulness)
The above symptoms have only been observed to be associated with NAFLD/NASH; it does not prove the presence of the condition. However, it is safe to visit a doctor if you observe any symptoms, especially if you are obese or have a previous health history.
A liver blood test or abdominal ultrasound will easily examine the condition of your liver to prove the presence or absence of NASH. It is necessary because most NASH/NAFLD patients don’t show signs before diagnosis.
Nonetheless, you should still visit the hospital even if you don’t have these symptoms.
There are different medically proven test methods for NASH/NAFLD diagnosis. They can be classified into four categories:
- Blood tests to examine liver functions
- Imaging procedure to examine the appearance of the liver
- Tests to measure the amount of fat in the liver
- Liver tissue examination (This is usually the last resort)
However, if there is a large amount of fat in the liver, this could indicate liver disease and ordinary ultrasound-based tests may lack reliability in diagnosing the condition.
Below is a list of all the available test methods.
- Liver blood test
- Hemoglobin AIC and Fasting blood sugar test
- Liver function and liver enzyme tests
- Full blood count
- Chronic viral hepatitis test
- Lipid profile test (to measure blood fats like triglycerides and cholesterol)
Aside from the above tests, there are some visual examinations or imaging procedures that are also used, such as;
- Abdominal Ultrasound
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or Computerized Tomography(CT)
- Transient elastography
- Magnetic resonance elastography
If none of the above is enough to diagnose the condition accurately, you can opt for the last resort.
The liver tissue examination is the last option when all other tests are inconclusive.
Liver Biopsy is currently the golden procedure for accurate NASH diagnosis. It involves the removal of a sample of tissue from your liver for laboratory examination.
The tissue is examined for indicators of inflammation and scarring.
You can prevent the occurrence of NASH by taking some simple preventive measures. Health is wealth. Some factors that increase the risk of NAFLD can be avoided for healthy living.
Below are things you can observe to reduce the risk of NASH/NAFLD.
- Watch your weight constantly.
- Reduce your sugar consumption
- Eliminate unhealthy foods and drinks from your diet
- Increase your activity level
- Reduce cholesterol intake
If you’re already overweight or diabetic, you might want to visit the doctor for a liver examination, especially if you observe any of the early symptoms listed above.
Image by julien Tromeur from Unsplash
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