Shocking Truth Revealed: The Silent Epidemic Sweeping the Globe!

“Fatty liver disease, also known as steatosis, has emerged as a contemporary pandemic and a significant non-communicable health issue, similar to coronary artery disease. This condition involves the excessive accumulation of fat within liver cells, ranging from simple fat deposition (fatty liver) to more severe forms resulting in inflammation and scarring (Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH). At the extreme end of the spectrum is liver cirrhosis, characterized by irreversible liver scarring, which can lead to liver cell failure, increased liver pressure, or even liver cancer.

In a recent interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr. Prakash Valse of Ruby Hall Clinic in Hinjewadi discussed recent studies, including one presented at ENDO 2023, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois. These studies have highlighted the increasing prevalence of fatty liver disease over the past three decades. This burden is not limited to the United States alone but poses a significant global health challenge. The risk of metabolic-associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD), formerly known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), has surged. This condition is closely linked to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and a common form of liver cancer.

According to Dr. Valse, the rising worldwide prevalence of diabetes and obesity plays a prominent role in exacerbating the prevalence and severity of fatty liver disease. He stated, “Diabetes is a primary risk factor for fatty liver disease, with a prevalence of 50-85% in diabetes across various studies. It worsens the complications of fatty liver disease, increasing the likelihood of rapid progression to permanent liver scarring (cirrhosis) and life-threatening complications. Liver cirrhosis can lead to liver cell failure, liver cancer, high liver pressure (portal hypertension), resulting in ascites (fluid in the abdomen), and hepatic encephalopathy (liver coma) due to increased toxins reaching the brain.”

Dr. Prakash Valse emphasized the importance of recognizing the symptoms of liver damage in diabetics for early intervention. He said, “In the early stages of liver cirrhosis, symptoms can be nonspecific, including leg swelling, increased fatigue, changes in sleep patterns, easy bruising, weight loss, and anemia (low hemoglobin). Laboratory indicators may include a low platelet count, hemoglobin, and WBC count, as well as mild elevations in liver enzymes and bilirubin in liver function tests. Abdominal ultrasound during health checkups may reveal a shrunken, nodular liver, an enlarged spleen, or fluid (ascites) in the abdomen.”

Dr. Prakash Valse cautioned that fatty liver disease has become a potent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, further exacerbating the already substantial global burden of heart-related illnesses. He explained, “The coexistence of fatty liver and diabetes places individuals at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular complications, including heart attacks and strokes. This alarming connection underscores the need for increased awareness and comprehensive preventive strategies to combat the growing burden of fatty liver disease. Left untreated, it can progress to life-threatening conditions such as liver cancer and liver failure. The severity of fatty liver disease is directly linked to the risk of these complications, emphasizing the critical importance of early detection and intervention in mitigating the adverse outcomes associated with this silent epidemic.”

In recent years, NAFLD has become the leading cause of liver transplantation worldwide. Dr. Prakash Valse noted, “The escalating prevalence of fatty liver disease, combined with a shortage of available organs for transplantation, poses a significant challenge to healthcare systems globally. This highlights the urgent need for public health initiatives and policy measures aimed at prevention, early diagnosis, and effective management of fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease has evolved into a modern-day pandemic with severe consequences for public health. Its strong associations with diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and liver cancer highlight the interconnectedness of these non-communicable health problems. As the global burden of diabetes and heart disease continues to rise, the prevalence of fatty liver disease is poised to worsen further. Thus, comprehensive efforts are necessary to combat this silent epidemic through early detection, effective management, and robust preventive strategies. By addressing the underlying risk factors and promoting healthier lifestyles, we can collectively work towards reducing the impact of fatty liver disease on individuals and societies worldwide.”

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