Fatty Liver Disease in Children

The liver is an organ that carries out approximately 500 tasks in your body. Hindrances caused to these tasks of the liver not only causes damage to the liver but also to the body and this results in liver damage treatments. One such condition that affects the functioning of the liver is fatty liver disease, which is caused by improper lifestyle choices and preferences.

Fatty liver disease is a condition where there is excessive deposition of fats on the liver walls. This fat deposit hampers the liver’s functioning, leading to complications. Fatty liver disease is of two types, viz., Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD) and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).

As the name suggests, ALFD results from excessive consumption of alcohol. All these alcohol results in the deposition of triglycerides on the liver fibres. Unable to metabolise these fats, the liver walls get damaged. Being a teetotaller does not rule out the possibility of fatty liver disease. People who have poor lifestyle choices are the ones who are affected—leading a sedentary life with an unbalanced diet and no physical activity results in fat depositions in different body parts. When the fat deposit is on the liver, it results in NAFLD.

The biggest misconception related to fatty liver disease is that it affects only old-aged people. Here we will look at how children are at a high risk of developing fatty liver disease and what measures we can take to reduce any risk of infection.

Fatty Liver Disease in Children

Children are often at a high risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. They are at an increased risk of infection because of lifestyle choices and misconceptions related to child nutrition.

NAFLD is the most significant cause of chronic liver disease in children, with 1 out of every ten children developing the disease. Over the past 20 years, the number of children affected by NAFLD increased alarming and has almost doubled. The rise in childhood obesity is the primary factor contributing to fatty liver disease in children.

The only positive note is that it is easily reversible if detected early.

Causes of Fatty Liver Disease in Children

Non-alcoholic fatty liver is caused mainly by poor lifestyle choices, i.e. junk and fast food. This unbalanced diet is the primary source of triglycerides that settle on the liver walls. To add to it, the lack of physical activity has made the condition worse as the fats that are consumed are not eliminated from the body.

Technological advancements and increased access to technology have made children lethargic. So now, the fats are settling on the walls of the liver. This causes damage to the liver fibres. Fatty liver seems to develop more in boys than girls and children as young as ten or even younger.

Children with obesity have a 38% risk of getting fatty liver disease. What’s worse is that children can inherit it from their parents genetically!

Risks associated with fatty liver disease

The fatty liver disease needs to be diagnosed at an early stage in order to be able to reverse it before it gets serious. But treating the disease at an early stage makes it challenging because of the lack of symptoms. Fatty liver disease does not show any signs until it has reached an advanced stage, making it a silent killer. As the disease progresses, it can cause non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH causes irreparable damage to the liver by causing scars on the liver fibres. At this stage, the only thing possible is a liver transplant. NASH is the second leading cause of liver transplants.

Is fatty liver disease reversible?

The only ray of hope in fatty liver disease is its reversibility. Your child’s paediatrician can detect a fatty liver in your child using a blood test to find the count of Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT).

The only way to reverse the conditions is when by implementing lifestyle changes. It is important to include outdoor sports and games to encourage your child to undertake some physical activity. This ensures that your child burns the fats that he has consumed. Educate your child about a balanced diet and healthy living so that he sets his food choices and preferences. Children must know what is good for them and what isn’t. Children must be encouraged to consume vegetables and fruits in their daily diet.

Decreasing health in children is a growing concern all over the world. With the increase in the number of children developing fatty liver disease, the situation worsens. The only way out is to create awareness in children’s minds about their health.

As a parent, you have responsibilities too. Allow your child to explore his hobbies and sports. Let them step out of the house and play. Educate them, and before you do that, educate yourself. You are the first person to set examples for your children. Start living a healthy life so that your children observe you, learn from you and start working on their health!

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