There are not usually any symptoms of NAFLD in the early stages, according to the NHS. If you have cirrhosis, the most advanced stage, you can get more severe symptoms. Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) refers to changes in the brain that occur in patients with advanced, acute or chronic liver disease. It is one of the major complications of cirrhosis.
The British Liver Trust says HE can occur suddenly in people with acute liver failure but is more often seen in those with chronic liver disease.
If the liver is badly damaged toxins can build up in the bloodstream. If they enter the brain, they can result in the condition, it says.
It states: “HE symptoms can range from mild to severe and can vary from person to person. Symptoms can develop rapidly or slowly over a period of time. Patients with HE can have both physical symptoms and reduced mental function.”
Early symptoms can include personality or mood changes.
The charity says that you may notice confusion, forgetfulness, poor judgement, and poor concentration.
Fortunately, HE is a treatable condition, though the severity of the condition and potential triggers will determine the treatment given, says the British Liver Trust.
The NHS says it is estimated up to one in every three people in the UK has early stages of NAFLD, where there are small amounts of fat in their liver.
“If detected and managed at an early stage, it’s possible to stop NAFLD getting worse and reduce the amount of fat in your liver,” it notes.
It says occasionally, people with NASH or fibrosis (more advanced stages of NAFLD) may experience a dull or aching pain in the top right of the tummy, extreme tiredness, unexplained weight loss and weakness.
It notes there’s currently no specific medication for NAFLD, but making healthy lifestyle choices can help.
The NHS says: “If you develop severe cirrhosis and your liver stops working properly, you may need to be put on the waiting list for a liver transplant.
“For adults, the average waiting time for a liver transplant is 135 days for transplants from recently deceased donors.”
The NHS warns that drinking a large amount of alcohol, even for just a few days, can lead to a build-up of fats in the liver. This is called alcoholic fatty liver disease, and is the first stage of ARLD.
Stopping drinking can help improve alcohol-related liver disease, though a liver transplant may be needed if the damage to the liver is severe.
The NHS notes stopping drinking is not easy, especially as an estimated 70 percent of people with ARLD have an alcohol dependency problem.
Sadly, death rates linked to ARLD have risen considerably over the last few decades, according to the NHS.
Public Health England figures show liver disease deaths in England rose from 9,218 in 2019 to 10,127 in 2020.
The American liver foundation says that if more than five to 10 percent of the liver’s weight is fat, then it is called a fatty liver.
People with a liver condition who develop dark black tarry faeces, or dark urine, should seek “urgent medical attention”, according to the British Liver Trust.