Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, also called NASH, is a growing problem in the United States. The National Institute of Health estimates that 30-40% of the population has fatty liver disease. Beyond that, 12% of adults in the United States have NASH, which is an advanced form of fatty liver disease.
If you have NASH, you not only have inflammation. You also have damaged liver cells, along with the fat in your liver. NASH can be difficult to diagnose, because it often has no apparent symptoms.
Tammera Clement has suffered from NASH for 10 years. Christy Overstreet, a nurse practitioner at Mercy Primary Care – Paducah, believes education is key.
“We must explain to our patients the importance of keeping their cholesterol and blood sugar levels at a normal range,” Nurse Overstreet said.. “Two major risk factors for developing a fatty liver are elevated cholesterol and obesity. If not addressed properly, these can lead to NASH. Many Americans have no idea their cholesterol is elevated, and those who do know, may not understand the risk of developing NASH.”
Additional health conditions that make people more likely to develop NASH include type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Tammera’s diagnosis of NASH has led to cirrhosis and liver failure. This caused fluid to build up within her abdominal area. To help manage her condition, Mercy Health radiology has performed a paracentesis, a procedure commonly performed in patients with advanced liver disease. During a paracentesis, a needle is used to remove excess fluid.
“I am so thankful for the great care I have received at Mercy Health,” Tammera said. “I can’t sing the staff’s praises enough. In fact, if I had a megaphone, I would shout their praises from the top of the hospital.”
Not all patient with NASH require a paracentesis. Oftentimes, losing weight can help reduce inflammation and fat in the liver.
To help reduce your risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, Nurse Overstreet recommends eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, keeping cholesterol within normal limits and having a yearly wellness exam.
Signs and symptoms of liver disease may include skin and eyes that appear jaundice, abdominal pain and swelling, chronic fatigue, nausea or vomiting, swelling in the legs and ankles, as well as a tendency to bruise easily. If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, see your doctor immediately.
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