Health Care Professionals Seeing More Children With Fatty Liver Disease; Condition Prevalent Among Hispanics
As many as 2% to 5% of children older than age five -- most of whom are obese -- are thought to have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and the condition seems to be most prevalent among Hispanic children, the AP/San Mateo Daily Journal reports. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is "relatively rare" among black children and more common in boys than girls, according to the AP/Daily Journal.
While some children who are not overweight have the disease, it is most common in overweight children with belly fat and other symptoms, such as diabetes and problems with cholesterol or heart disease. According to the AP/Daily Journal, genetics, diet and exercise play a role in whether children develop the condition.
The liver can become inflamed and scarred over time as fat builds up, which in turn can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer. Cirrhosis previously had been linked to hepatitis and drinking too much alcohol. Fatty liver disease can be reversed through weight loss if cirrhosis has not yet developed, the AP/Daily Journal reports.
From 1990 through 2002, there were three reported liver transplants among children with fatty liver disease and two such procedures were performed last year. Jose Derdoy, head of liver transplants at Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center, said that some children with fatty liver disease will end up requiring a liver transplant in their 30s or early 40s. Some experts have said that by 2020 fatty liver disease will be the main reason for liver transplants.
The American Academy of Pediatrics this spring recommended that doctors perform a blood test of liver enzymes once every two years for obese children and overweight children with high blood pressure, cholesterol or a family history of heart disease (Johnson, AP/San Mateo Daily Journal, 9/3).