Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)
What is Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)?
NASH stands for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Steato refers to fat, and hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver.
NASH is a severe form of fatty liver disease where the liver becomes inflamed and scarred due to fat build-up. The liver can only manage a small amount of fat before it causes inflammation and damage. NASH is not related to alcohol use.
Stages of the disease
NASH has different stages depending on the amount of scarring (fibrosis) in the liver. Scar tissue forms in the liver as it tries to repair and replace damaged cells caused by fat build-up.
What are the symptoms?
Similar to many other types of liver disease, NASH causes little to no symptoms, so you may not always know you have it unless you get a liver health check.
If you do experience symptoms, these may be:
- Loss of apetite
- Abdominal discomfort (stomach pain)
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Itchy skin
- Weakness and confusion
What increases your risk of NASH?
Your risk of having NASH is higher if you have any of the following:
- Fatty liver disease (1 in 10 people with fatty liver disease will go on to develop NASH)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Insulin resistance (e.g. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)
- High blood pressure
- High blood fat levels (triglyceride)
- Abnormal levels of cholesterol
- Metabolic syndrome
- Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)
Talk to your GP about checking your liver health. Left untreated, liver disease can lead to liver failure and liver cancer.
A liver health check usually starts with blood tests to check liver enzymes. Further tests may be required and your doctor will talk you through them.
How is NASH diagnosed?
The following tests can be used to check for NASH:
- Blood tests
- FibroScan (similar to an
- ultrasound, tests for liver stiffness)
- Abdominal ultrasound
- CT scan (computed tomography)
- MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging)
If these tests cannot identify the severity of fatty liver you may need a liver biopsy. This is where a small tissue sample is taken from your liver.
What can I do if I have NASH?
Making long-term, healthy lifestyle changes and managing chronic health conditions are key to living well with NASH.
- Weight loss. Losing 7 to 10% of body weight can greatly improve fatty liver.
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet. The Mediterranean dietary pattern can slow fatty liver disease.
- Regular physical activity. Exercise also has great heart and mental health benefits. Aim for 30 minutes per day.
- Reduce alcohol. Ask your doctor if any alcohol is safe for you.
- Regular check-ups. Speak to your doctor to manage your NASH and any other chronic health conditions, particularly diabetes.
- Monitor your blood pressure. Look out for increased cholesterol and blood fat levels (triglycerides).
Call the Hepatitis Queensland Infoline on 1800 437 222 for more information and support.
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