Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: Psoriasis is a risk factor – how to spot it on the skin

Liver disease: NHS Doctor talks about link with alcohol

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Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the term for a range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat in the liver. Early-stage NAFLD does not usually cause any harm, but it can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis, if left untreated. Unfortunately, there are usually no symptoms to alert you to NAFLD.

There are a number of risk factors that can contribute to NAFLD, however.

It has been shown that psoriasis patients have an increased incidence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease over people without psoriasis.

Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales.

A review published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology cited a number of studies that has linked psoriasis to NAFLD.

Multiple hospital-based observational studies suggest patients with psoriasis are 1.5-fold to threefold more likely to have NAFLD, the review found.

In an Italian prospective study, 59 percent of psoriatic patients were diagnosed with NAFLD.

It was significantly correlated with metabolic syndrome, obesity, and psoriatic arthritis.

The finding is significant because metabolic syndrome (the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity) and obesity are also risk factors for NAFLD.

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What’s more, the review also cited another study that sought to establish whether psoriasis is an independent risk factor for NAFLD and not just associated with metabolic conditions, such as obesity.

The issue was examined in the Rotterdam study, a prospective population-based cohort study, which included patients 55 years and older in the Netherlands.

Psoriasis was independently associated with a 70 percent increased likelihood of NAFLD.

What’s more, psoriasis patients were 60 percent more likely to have the more severe forms of the liver disease.

Other risk factors for NAFLD

Other metabolic conditions linked to NAFLD include:

  • Insulin resistance, in which your cells don’t take up sugar in response to the hormone insulin
  • High blood sugar (hyperglycaemia), indicating prediabetes or type 2 diabetes
  • High levels of fats, particularly triglycerides, in the blood.

“These combined health problems appear to promote the deposit of fat in the liver,” explains the Mayo Clinic.

“For some people, this excess fat acts as a toxin to liver cells, causing liver inflammation and NASH, which may lead to a buildup of scar tissue in the liver.”

Can NAFLD be treated?

Unfortunately, there aren’t any specific treatments yet for NAFLD.

“Your doctor will encourage you to make changes to your lifestyle to prevent your condition getting worse,” explains Bupa.

There’s lots of research going on to try to find a treatment, especially for people with the more advanced stages of liver fibrosis and inflammation.

There are various medicines that are useful in managing problems associated with NAFLD.

“For example, your doctor may recommend medicines to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes if you have these conditions,” explains Bupa.

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