According to a recent study, published in the digital version of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, scientists from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, researchers found out that first-degree relatives of patients suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) who have advanced fibrosis are at a 15 percent higher risk to get affected by the disease themselves.
The study findings focused on the importance of early screening of both siblings and offspring of people who have NAFLD. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is a medical term used to define certain liver diseases that affect people who drink little or no alcohol. One-fourth of the entire worldwide population is affected by the disease. NAFLD can lead to Cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even liver failure.
Rohit Loomba, MD, the study’s first author, professor in the Division of Gastroenterology at UC San Diego School of Medicine and director of hepatology at UC San Diego Health, "Until now, first-degree relatives accompanying their loved ones with liver disease for medical treatment didn’t know they were at a greater risk of developing advanced fibrosis themselves."
"Liver disease is a silent killer. Most people don’t know they have a liver problem until it’s advanced and they develop cirrhosis because there are no obvious symptoms. Our goal and mission are to identify patients who have more advanced liver problems earlier, and non-invasively, to prevent the progression to cirrhosis," added Loomba.
He said that elucidating first-degree relatives about risk factors, such as excessive drinking, weight gain and a sedentary lifestyle is also important. The research has proved that advanced fibrosis can spread within the same families and that NAFLD can be inherited genetically.
Loomba said, "Many liver disease-related genes modify based upon a person’s lifestyle and what they eat. That means first-degree relatives can help prevent developing advanced fibrosis if they are aware of the risk and willing to make lifestyle modifications,” Loomba said. “Patients should be informed of what their risk is because then they are more likely to change their behaviour and lifestyle."