Synergy Healthcare

From Fatty Liver to NASH

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition where fat builds up in the liver of individuals who drink little to no alcohol. Some individuals with fatty liver will continue with no adverse effects on their health. In others, excess fat accumulation triggers chronic inflammation. This can lead to a more serious form of NAFLD called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). We are still trying to figure out why some people progress and others do not. However, we know the damage to the liver from being a simple fatty liver to NASH is a silent and deadly road.

Inflammation and Immune Response

Fatty liver

When your body is sick or injured, your immune system response is activated. When too much fat accumulates in the liver, it can trigger chronic inflammation. Inflammation is a form of healing the immune system creates where the blood vessels and arteries in and around the liver will enlarge. Clearing and expanding these “highways” helps:

  • Send more oxygen-rich blood and vital nutrients
  • Make room for other repair cells that remove damaged cells and harmful substances and release collagen. Collagen stiffens the cells around the repair area to protect it while it heals.

Chronic Inflammation and NASH

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Over time, chronic inflammation turns to NASH and can begin to damage the liver. Without treatment or lifestyle changes to reduce the amount of fat in the liver, the liver will keep trying to heal itself. Thus, instead of discarding the excess collagen when the healing process is signaled to stop, it builds up and leads to more stiffening of the liver and scarring. The scars will continue to replace healthy liver cells, leading to severe scarring which cannot be reversed (cirrhosis). Though the liver continues trying to perform its vital functions in the meantime, ultimately, it starts to fail without enough healthy cells.

Stages of liver damage

NASH takes many years to develop and does so often without any symptoms until later stages. Symptoms from NASH may include:

  • Severe fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Spiderlike blood vessels on the skin
  • Persistent itching of the skin

In addition to cirrhosis, NASH can also progress to liver cancer and liver failure. Knowing your risk is a vital part of early intervention to slow, stop, or prevent the progression of NASH. Risk factors for NASH include:

  • Being overweight
  • High blood “bad” fat levels, such as triglycerides or LDL
  • Having diabetes or prediabetes
  • High blood pressure

Do You have NASH? A Clinical Trial May Help!

Support fatty liver disease research

If you have NASH, participating in clinical research studies may help. Contact our team at Synergy Healthcare to learn more about enrolling NASH studies or our Metabolic Health Initiative program today! Call (941) 896-4948 or visit our website.

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