Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is defined as fatty infiltration of the liver exceeding 5% to 10% by weight. It is a spectrum of disorders ranging from simple fatty liver (steatosis without liver injury), to Non Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) (Steatosis with inflammation), and fibrosis/cirrhosis that resembles alcohol-induced liver disease but which develops in individuals who are not alcoholics. In short, NAFLD comprises liver injury in persons in the absence of intake of significant amount of alcohol, where fat deposition in the liver is a major feature and trigger for damage.
NAFLD in both adults and children has been linked to overweight/obesity. With increasing overweight/obesity in children and adults, it appears that NAFLD has reached the level of public health importance. The full spectrum of NAFLD is similar in both adults and children. It is likely that similar to obesity, majority of the NAFLD cases may also have roots in childhood.
Factors responsible for fatty liver in children are diverse and need to be viewed differently from that in older age groups. The growth and development along with continued changes in the body’s metabolic milieu creates a unique scenario in children.
Obesity is said to be the important factor responsible for fatty liver in children. It has been found that 17-40% of obese children in India - in the 8-20 years age group - are now being diagnosed with fatty liver. Faulty lifestyle such as excessive consumption of junk food and less physical exercise are the reasons. For instance, more and more children spend their time indoors and watch TV without active physical activity. It is also said that the disease is more common among boys than girls.
Unbalanced energy intake and genetic predisposition are other factors.
NAFLD im most children are asymptomatic. ie. it is usually not associated with symptoms. It is generally diagnosed through medical tests such as ultrasound examination and blood tests.
Some preventive measures include