Clinical Features of NAFLD
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Most subjects with NAFLD are asymptomatic. The diagnosis is often made when abnormal liver aminotransferases or features of fatty liver are noted during an evaluation performed for other reasons. NAFLD may also be diagnosed during the workup of vague right upper quadrant abdominal pain, hepatomegaly, or an abnormal-appearing liver at time of abdominal surgery. Obesity is present in 50–90% of sub- jects. Most patients with NAFLD also have other features of the meta- bolic syndrome (Chap. 401). Some have subtle stigmata of chronic liver disease, such as spider angiomata, palmer erythema, or splenomegaly. In a small minority of patients with advanced NAFLD, complications of end-stage liver disease (e.g., jaundice, features of portal hyperten- sion such as ascites or variceal hemorrhage) may be the initial findings. The association of NAFLD with obesity, diabetes, hypertriglyceri- demia, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease is well known. Other associations include chronic fatigue, mood alterations, obstructive sleep apnea, thyroid dysfunction, and chronic pain syndrome. NAFLD is an independent risk factor for metabolic syndrome (Chap. 401). Longitudinal studies suggest that patients with NASH are at two- to threefold increased risk for the development of metabolic syndrome. Similarly, studies have shown that patients with NASH have a higher risk for the development of hypertension and diabetes mellitus. The presence of NAFLD is also independently associated with endothe- lial dysfunction, increased carotid intimal thickness, and the number of plaques in carotid and coronary arteries. Such data indicate that NAFLD has many deleterious effects on health in general.