Letters to the Editor

Is life worth living? It all depends on the liver

Fatty liver disease: Scott’s story

Scott was suffering from nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). He was in extreme pain and needed a transplant due to a build-up of liquid in his abdomen. After a pioneering combination surgery at Mayo Clinic, he was able to successfully recover.
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Scott was suffering from nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). He was in extreme pain and needed a transplant due to a build-up of liquid in his abdomen. After a pioneering combination surgery at Mayo Clinic, he was able to successfully recover.

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, a fatty liver disease, is emerging as one of Florida’s and the nation’s direst public health problems. The liver is in charge of more than 150 bodily functions, like controlling blood sugar and producing proteins important for blood clotting. It also filters all molecules in our system, breaks down the medicines we take, and while it produces, transforms and transports fat, it’s not made to store it.

With NASH, the liver gets overwhelmed when, for example, our sugar intake is too high; to compensate, it starts storing the excess fat. If nothing changes, like diet or exercise, our livers become inflamed — also known as hepatitis. Eventually, the disease progresses to non-alcoholic cirrhosis, liver failure, liver cancer, the need for a transplant and even death, usually from cardiovascular disease.

NASH is a “silent” disease, and most patients don’t show any symptoms until they are in a later stage of the disease. Patients may have fatigue or loss of appetite, symptoms associated with many other conditions, making it difficult for physicians and clinicians to get a good handle on screening.

NASH trends appear to mirror those of obesity and diabetes; it is estimated that up to 12 percent of Americans have it, higher than the prevalence of diabetes. Nationally, about 1-in-5 Latinos may have it.

As we celebrate the first NASH International Day in Miami this week, we’re partnering with the NASH Education Program in a conversation on care-giving, clinical trials, and precision medicine. It’s one way we can help Miamians live longer, healthier, sunnier lives.

Fernando Bril, MD,

department of medicine,

Kenneth Cusi,

chief,

division of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism,

University of Florida,

Gainesville,

and Yanira Cruz,

president, CEO,

National Hispanic Council on Aging

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