Four years ago, 42-year-old Manisha was diagnosed with high cholesterol levels. Though she was advised with modifications in her lifestyle, she did not pay heed to the warning signs. Then a severe bout of stomach pain landed her in the hospital, where she was diagnosed with non-alcoholic steatohepatities (NASH), a condition in which the liver gets inflamed.
"She had no clue that the disease had progressed rapidly and it came as a shock. It is similar with many patients who come in with NASH as the condition is silent and displays no symptoms," said consultant hepatologist Dr N Murugan of Apollo Hospitals. He said the condition is a progression of fatty-liver diseases and women above 45 years of age are at a higher risk.
There are four stages of liver diseases namely - fatty liver, NASH, fibrosis and cirrhosis. NASH a silent disease can be easily triggered in patients with diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol levels. Around 40% of NASH patients do not have any symptoms and are detected late.
"Unfortunately, that is not the case. In this state, up to 25% of those with fatty liver end up having a progression to NASH, which can end up in irreversible liver damage. In fact, around a quarter of all liver transplant patients are those who suffer from this condition," he warned.
Dr Vijay Viswanathan, chief diabetologist at the M V Diabetes Research Foundation says people refer to fatty liver as an alcoholic liver disease, making them assume that it only strikes very heavy drinkers. "One of the biggest drawbacks of having fatty liver or NASH is that the patient does not qualify for liver donation. We lose out on a large number of liver donors this way," said Dr Vijay.
Assuring that simple lifestyle modifications like cutting down on sugar and fatty foods coupled with reducing central obesity (weight concentrated on the belly) through physical exercise can help in reversing NASH, said Dr Murugan. "Just 30 minutes of aerobics or resistance training can do wonders," he added.