World Liver Day 2023: Symptoms of fatty liver in kids; tips to prevent the condition
As obesity rises among children, they are at an increased risk of fatty liver. Here's how parents can help prevent this condition.
Unhealthy eating pattern in children coupled with sedentary lifestyle due to excessive screen time is putting them at risk of several lifestyle diseases early on in life. A diet high in sugar, fat and calories can cause fatty liver in kids. There may not be any symptoms of this condition in kids, however if the damage is greater children may report stomach pain, fatigue or jaundice. To treat fatty liver in kids, parents must work on making appropriate lifestyle modifications. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and other high-fibre foods must be added to the diet and daily exercise and playtime must be encouraged. (Also read: World Liver Day 2023: Signs of fatty liver on your face, eyes and skin)
"Fatty liver in children is becoming increasingly common and is often associated with obesity, as excess fat in the body is deposited in the liver, leading to inflammation and damage to liver cells. Type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome are also linked with it," says Dr Vaibhav Meshram, Paediatrician, Ruby Hall Clinic.
Dr Vaibhav says unhealthy diet and inactivity are the main culprits in such cases but genetic factors, diseases or the use of certain medications could also be at play.
"Fatty liver in children can be caused by various factors, including an unhealthy diet high in sugar, fat, and calories, lack of physical activity, and genetic predisposition. The condition can also be caused by certain medications and medical conditions, such as Wilson's disease, hepatitis C, and hypothyroidism," says the expert.
Symptoms of fatty liver disease in kids
"They are usually mild in case of children, and in some cases, there may be no symptoms at all. However, in severe cases, children may experience abdominal pain, fatigue, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). But as the condition progresses, it can lead to inflammation and scarring of the liver, which can result in liver damage and even liver failure," says Dr Vaibhav.
The expert adds that diagnosis of fatty liver disease in children is typically made through blood tests, imaging studies (such as ultrasound), and liver biopsy in some cases.
"Weight loss, exercise, and a nutritious diet are examples of treatment alternatives. In severe cases, medication may be needed to reduce inflammation and prevent further damage to the liver," says the expert.
How to prevent fatty liver disease in kids
Prevention involves encouraging healthy eating habits and physical activity.
"Parents can help prevent the condition by promoting a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limiting the intake of sugary and fatty foods. Encouraging regular physical activity and limiting sedentary behaviours, such as excessive screen time, can also help prevent fatty liver in children," concludes Dr Vaibhav.