written by: Jason C. Chavis
• edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski
• updated: 12/31/2009
Stage 3 non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the final development of liver disease caused by conditions other than alcohol use. Unfortunately, the best way to treat this problem is through preventative measures rather than after it has developed.
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The causes of stage 3 non-alcoholic fatty liver disease vary depending on the individual. The third stage of the disease develops due to medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Onset can also occur after the use of drugs including amiodarone, antivirals, aspirin, corticosteroids, methotrexate, nifedipine, perhexiline, tamoxifen, tetracycline and valproic acid. However, the exact reason why stage 3 non-alcoholic fatty liver disease develops from more minor stages is unknown.
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Early symptoms of the disease are mild and much of the time are unnoticed by patients and doctors. A general feeling of malaise and fatigue can develop in individuals, along with mild jaundice. However, as symptoms become more severe, enlargement of the liver and spleen is commonplace, along with muscle wasting and sensitive skin. Essentially, the liver fails to provide the necessary enzymes for repairing cells and filtering the blood. Since the liver is necessary for survival, the end result of this disease is often death.
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One of the most common ways to test for the disease is by performing a liver enzyme test. This can be done simply with a blood test, which will show a physician if the patient has elevated levels of transaminases, identifiers of liver problems. Additional studies may also be conducted to measure the level of liver damage, such as a biopsy or ultrasound. In order to rule out infection, doctors often use other blood tests to test for viral hepatitis, a disease transferred via bodily fluids, which causes the same effects as fatty liver disease.
There is no “magic bullet" for treatment of the disease, meaning very little can be done outside healthy life choices to rectify the situation. Since obesity is one of the major causes of a fatty liver, eating a healthy diet is very important, as is abstaining from other risk factors such as alcohol or drug use that will further damage the organ. Gradual, controlled weight loss has also shown to be effective in treating the disease. However, patients should be sure not to loose too much weight too fast, as that can have negative health effects as well. Some studies conducted by the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease also shows that certain insulin drugs have been shown to have limited success.