Millions of Americans are living with fatty livers and they simply do not know it.
Some 16 million Americans suffer from nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a form of liver disease in which deposits of fat build up around the liver, causing inflammation and liver cell damage, Business Insider reports. NASH can lead to more serious conditions, like cirrhosis of the liver or cancer. The disease is on course to overtake hepatitis as the single-largest contributor to liver transplants by 2020.
The only medically approved treatments for NASH are diet and exercise, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. There are no clinically approved medications at this time.
If the disease progresses to a more serious condition, like cirrhosis, doctors can treat it with approved medications or operations.
All evidence points to NASH as a disease triggered by lifestyle choices. One of the difficulties with the disease is that it is not easily identified by physicians.
Most people are completely asymptomatic until later stages, and the test for NASH requires a what can be a rather painful biopisy procedure. As a result, many patients either don’t want to have the test or they don’t want to know the results since the disease is untreatable.
Some pharmaceutical experts coin NASH as the next giant untapped market in health care. Current estimates have the market for NASH drugs pegged between $20 and $35 billion, Reuters reports.
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