Fatty liver can already be identified in childhood - there is a risk of serious damage to health
More and more children suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) due to malnutrition and lack of exercise. This can lead to serious, irreversible damage to health from an early age. Early countermeasures are therefore urgently required.
On the occasion of World Children's Day on September 20, the German Liver Foundation points out that many children suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver as a result of unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. If it is not recognized and treated early, there is a risk of serious damage to the important metabolic organ. The experts of the German Liver Foundation also report on other liver diseases of various causes that can lead to liver damage in children.
Urgent need for action
The German Liver Foundation uses World Children's Day "to draw attention to the alarming rise in serious overweight and fatty liver in children." There is an urgent need for action here, because the numbers are alarming, according to Professor Ulrich Baumann, specialist for pediatric and adolescent medicine from Pediatric gastroenterology and hepatology at the Hannover Medical School (MHH).
Every tenth child affected
"More and more children are too fat and suffer from a chronic liver disease such as non-alcoholic fatty liver," emphasizes Professor Baumann. A report by the Society of European Gastroenterologists in 2016 showed that one in ten children treated by a doctor in Europe had non-alcoholic fatty liver.
Fatty liver is a serious health risk
Already three-year-olds are affected, according to the German Liver Foundation. The World Health Organization (WHO) also raises the alarm and warns that one in three children between the ages of six and nine in Europe is pathologically too fat. Almost half of all very overweight children develop a non-alcoholic fatty liver, which is only noticed in very rare cases by symptoms of the disease, but poses a great health risk.
The risk of liver cancer is also increasing
Children with fatty liver may also experience inflammation of the liver and irreversible scarring of the liver tissue called fibrosis. This can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, which in turn significantly increases the risk of liver cell cancer in children and adolescents. "In overweight children and adolescents, the treating doctor should always clarify fatty liver disease," explains Professor Dr. Michael P. Manns, Chairman of the Board of the German Liver Foundation.
Early diagnosis is important
With a simple ultrasound examination, liver changes can be made visible and an evaluation of the liver values may provide further information. Increased liver values (GPT, GOT and GGT) indicate liver disease. If the diagnosis is made in good time, treatment or a change in diet and exercise can often reduce the fat deposits in the liver, reports the German Liver Foundation.
Other liver diseases in children
In addition to non-alcoholic fatty liver, the German Liver Foundation mentions other liver diseases that children can already suffer from, such as bile duct atresia, various metabolic diseases and autoimmune diseases. Inflammation of the liver, such as the hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus, also affects some children. With the information sheet "Liver Diseases in Children", the German Liver Foundation draws attention to the various liver diseases that can affect children. (fp)