Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fatty liver becomes a big problem with changing lifestyles

Diseases affecting the liver represent an area of great unmet medical need in the western medicine. Fatty liver disease, the accumulation of fat in liver cells, is the number one liver disease in the United States and a silent killer of epidemic proportion. The accumulated fat leads to inflammation that eventually leads to fibrosis, or scarring of the liver. In turn, the fibrosis leads to cirrhosis of the liver, which if not cured at the early stage can become an irreversible disease largely only resolved through transplantation. There is also an association between advanced fatty liver disease with fibrosis and liver cancer.

The problems with hoping for a liver transplant are that only about 6,300 liver transplants happen in the U.S. each year, it is a major procedure requiring lifelong immune suppression, and those that receive a transplant have a risk of fatty liver disease reoccurring. Also liver transplant is very expensive and is beyond the reach of many middle class and lower middle class patients with no good insurance especially in the developing world.

Even more problematic, fatty liver disease is essentially asymptomatic until the latter stages. The disease is usually only diagnosed via routine screening for elevated enzymes, a seasoned physician requesting subsequent imaging tests and then a liver biopsy to confirm. To that end, fatty liver disease is often times not diagnosed until it has reached more advanced stages, a time when it will be difficult to reverse the damage.

For most people when they hear cirrhosis, the first thing that comes to mind is images of alcohol abuse. While that is certainly a pathway, fatty liver disease is also closely associated with obesity and diabetes, two diseases spiraling out of control in the U.S. and other countries. Further, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is affecting about 30 percent of the U.S. population, without any treatment options in western medicine. One of the study has found that the obesity rate is rising very fast among Americans. In the U.S. alone, more than 25 million people are diagnosed with diabetes, with the number growing. Worldwide, the number explodes to about 350 million. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 36 percent of U.S. adults and 18 percent of children aged 12 – 19 were clinically obese in 2010. While more than one-quarter of Americans have fatty liver disease, about 9 out of every 10 clinically obese citizens have the condition. In fact fatty liver disease is more prominent than either hepatitis B or C and growing in numbers. 
Right now the traditional or alternative medicine along with diet control and exercise provide a good option of curing fatty liver and it can be reversed if precautions and actions are taken at the right time.


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