Feature Article

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease



© dr_microbe/istockphoto.com
© dr_microbe/istockphoto.com


Disease progression in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) occurs more commonly in patients with other features of the metabolic syndrome. Primary care physicians play an important role in diagnosing NAFLD, managing metabolic risk factors and noninvasive assessment of disease stage.

Key Points

  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) affects about a quarter of Australia’s population.
  • NAFLD encompasses a broad spectrum of clinical disease ranging from benign simple steatosis to end-stage cirrhosis.
  • Patients with the metabolic syndrome are more likely to have NAFLD and more likely to have progressive liver disease from NAFLD.
  • A noninvasive assessment for fibrosis and cirrhosis should be performed in patients with NAFLD.
  • All patients with NAFLD should be counselled about the importance of weight loss and exercise.
  • There is currently no approved, disease-modifying therapy for NAFLD and patients who have significant liver disease due to NAFLD should be referred to a gastroenterologist for assessment and consideration of participation in a clinical drug trial.