Non-alcoholic hepatitis, or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, is a liver disease similar to alcoholic hepatitis and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Symptoms appear nonexistent in its early stages, but can develop as the liver disease progresses. According to medical sources, the causes of non-alcoholic hepatitis remain unclear. Doctors use blood and liver tests as methods to detect non-alcoholic hepatitis. No specific treatment or therapies reportedly exist; health care professionals usually recommend changes to a patient's lifestyle to reduce or reverse symptoms.
Some of the early warning signs of the of non-alcoholic hepatitis includes inflammation, excess fat, and damage to the liver. The condition resembles alcoholic hepatitis, except that non-alcoholic hepatitis mostly affects people who rarely drink alcohol or avoid liquor altogether. Non-alcoholic hepatitis also shares traits with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which commonly affects obese individuals.
This particular liver disease gets the nickname "silent" because some who have it experience no symptoms, especially in its early stages. In most cases, patients may be unaware that they have the problem because they generally feel healthy. Non-alcoholic liver disease appears to affect mostly those who are overweight and middle-aged, yet the disease can occur regardless of age, weight, and medical condition. In other cases, some people with the liver disease experience weight loss, weakness, and fatigue. This non-alcoholic form of hepatitis may also take several years to advance and include liver scarring, or fibrosis.
Causes of non-alcoholic hepatitis remain unconfirmed. In addition to middle age, diabetes and high cholesterol reportedly seem to be among the risk factors for developing the disease. Other possible risk factors include cell deterioration within the liver cells, the release of cytokines, or inflammatory toxins, within the body, and insulin resistance in diabetics.
Doctors usually suspect the presence of non-alcoholic liver disease through routine blood tests such as aspartate aminotransferase (AST), that can detect high levels of fat or liver enzymes. Imaging tests and X-rays that show fat on the liver indicate the condition when other factors, such as viral hepatitis or heavy alcohol use, have been ruled out as causes of liver damage. A liver biopsy provides final confirmation as to whether non-alcoholic hepatitis is present in the body.
Instead of specific therapies, doctors usually recommend following a healthy diet, exercising often, and losing weight if necessary. People with the liver disease must also avoid alcohol and any unnecessary medications and supplements. Experimental approaches to treatment, which are under evaluation by medical researchers, include vitamin E supplementation and antidiabetic medications.