More people need to be tested for Fatty Liver Disease

More people need to be tested for Fatty Liver Disease
More people need to be screened for Fatty Liver Disease (Source: NBC News)

WSFA/AP - Fatty liver disease is a leading cause of liver transplantation in the United States, and people might not even know they're suffering from it.

Karen Fricke was undergoing screenings for other medical conditions when doctors noticed something off with her liver enzymes. They discovered she had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

"I was very surprised because I don't have fluid in your abdomen, my feet aren't swollen, I don't drink, I never have, so yes I was really shocked," Fricke said.

Dr. Guy Neff says she's one of 40 to 50 million people with the condition.

"The vast majority of these patients, nearly all of them are asymptomatic, meaning they do not have any symptoms. They may have a vague right upper quadrant pain, they may notice some sleep-wake issues, maybe some pruritus, maybe some itching, but otherwise, they are nearly all asymptomatic."

Neff says more people should be getting screened like men typically over the age of 50, anyone with a body mass index over 30 and women with hypothyroidism.

New technology is helping doctors find damage from fatty liver disease quicker and determine the best course of treatment.

Neff said, "It's important for us to make sure we can find the patient that has fatty liver disease with inflammation. If they have that, we want to make sure they're on the right trail so that we can help them."

Fricke is hoping new treatments can help her avoid a transplant.

"They say my liver actually is quite in the end stage and they say that maybe these trial drugs can help me stay where I am now or get better."

In addition to trial drugs, lifestyle changes like diet and exercise can help improve fatty liver disease.

Copyright 2018 WSFA 12 News/NBC. All rights reserved.