More than 7 million children in the United States are believed to have developed fatty liver disease, a condition that doctors used to see only in adult patients.
Fatty liver disease occurs when the liver is bloated and saturated by fat cells. Although commonly induced by excess alcohol consumption in adults, the onset in children is referred to as the non-alcoholic variety of the disease.
Medical experts say that childhood obesity is a factor in developing the disease.
17 percent of today’s American children are obese, while an additional 17 percent of them are considered overweight.
Genetic components to fatty liver disease, however, have not been ruled out, as ethnic groups like Mexican-Americans appear to be more vulnerable.
Dr. Naim Alkhouri, director of the Inherited Metabolic Liver Disease at Cleveland Children’s Clinic says, “Obesity has the same effect on the liver like alcohol.”
Researchers at Alkahouuri’s Cleveland Clinic were responsible for developing the more efficient ways of assessing the liver and have also developed a fatty disease calculator that doctors can use online.
Thanks to a major breakthrough in testing procedure, doctors are able to test the severity of a child’s liver situation with a blood sample. Until now, invasive liver biopsies were the only route.
Liver enzyme values and platelet counts are plugged into a mathematical equation. The product of this equation gives doctors an assessment of how severe a patient’s disease is.
“By applying the calculator, you can avoid liver biopsy in approximately 60 percent of kids,” Alkhouri said.
If detected at an early stage, the disease is reversible.
Video Report: Abc 7 News